Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Soft Light for Streams and Forests
If you’re starting notice that all of fall foliage photography tips so far seem to focus on light that’s good. One of the keys to making great photographs is choosing the right light for you subject. During the foliage season I’m often drawn to intimate landscapes that incorporate a meandering river or stream as well as compositions that feature forest habitats. Without a doubt the best light under which to photograph these types of scenes is soft, diffused light on cloudy, foggy or rainy days. This type of light is perfect because without the harsh direct light found on sunny days you avoid super dark shadows and ultra bright highlights. The result is a nice even light that allows all the rich details, textures and colors to be enjoyed.
When composing images on cloudy days it’s usually a good idea not to include the sky. On cloudy or overcast days the sky will appear as bright white or dull gray in the frame and quite frankly isn’t that pretty. Since it’s also probably the brightest thing in the frame it will pull the eye up and away from all the beautiful texture and color in your composition. My rule of thumb is to only include the sky when there is something great going on, perhaps some pretty puffy white clouds against a blue sky, a dramatic storm cloud or a colorful sunset.
I sometimes go a step further by shooting these types of scenes when it’s raining or just after a rain. Stream shots in particular really benefit from a little rain. When the rocks in a stream are wet they are darker and tend to be far more colorful than when they are dry. Don’t worry too much about getting your camera a little wet, simply dry it off occasionally and make sure to wipe any water from the lens to avoid visible water drops in the image.