Fall Photography from 18 Working Photographers

Many of you are probably excited for fall – the colors, the low-angle light, and the dramatic weather all help us achieve stunning images. Start the season right with some words of wisdom from 18 working photographers and their visual expressions of what the harvest season means to them.

© David Kingham

Luminous Fall © David Kingham. Taken with a Fuji XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4R OIS on a Fuji X-T1 at 1/30th sec, f/4, ISO 320

“This fall I would like to encourage you to get out and explore, get off the beaten path far away from the crowds and iconic locations. Take time to immerse yourself in the landscape and let it speak to you. Intimate landscapes are quickly becoming my favorite type of photograph and there is no better time than fall to create such images. It requires you to move in a slower pace and work harder to create a compelling composition full of emotion and meaning to you and your viewer. Any and all lenses can be used for fall photography. I would recommend playing around with telephoto lenses to isolate scenes like this. An absolutely essential piece of gear is a circular polarizer to take the glare off the leaves, bringing out the vibrant colors. For this image I spent the day exploring a remote area of the San Juan mountains in Colorado, my favorite area to take clients on fall color workshops.” – David Kingham

© Amanda Long

© Amanda Long. Taken with a Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM on a Sony a77 at 1/250th sec, f/3.5, ISO 250

“Fall can be a difficult season in the Pacific Northwest. Fall color usually means constant rain is on the way, if it hasn’t arrived already. When working with an engaged couple it’s important to have a some fallback locations available in the event of unpredictable rain or bright sun. I prefer architectural cover like bridges, awnings, and the occasional parking garage. For this session we expected rain at some point so we focused our efforts around Cathedral Park under the St. John’s Bridge. The stairs are perfect for “walking photos” and recent rain and wind brought some of the remaining yellow leaves to dust the location. The couple’s boxer didn’t like sitting on the wet stairs so he actually wrapped himself around them in an attempt to avoid the request. A longer lens can be helpful in providing some distance between you and a shy/excitable dog.” – Amanda Long

© Renee Robyn

© Renee Robyn. Taken with a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II on a Canon 5D Mark II at 1/80th sec, f/6.3, ISO 320

“I shot this while experiencing my first fall in Quebec. I was so amazed by the collection of colors from the leaves and the smell in the air. I’m largely a studio shooter but this image reminds me to always try something new and take time to enjoy the present moment. We must always push forward but if we forget to appreciate the now, our lives begin to feel empty. Take a deep breath, and appreciate the gift of right now.” – Renee Robyn

© Clay Cook

© Clay Cook. Taken with a Canon 50mm f/1.2L on a Canon 5D Mark III at 1/125th sec, f/5.6, ISO 400

“Never plateau, never remain comfortable. The beautiful colors and weather of fall presents an amazing backdrop. Get out of the studio, get on location and experiment. This image was photographed in the morning which allowed a perfect soft light to mix with the fall colors. I used a white card for fill and a 6×6’ 2-stop silk for diffusing the sun.” – Clay Cook

© Moose Peterson

Snow Geese © Moose Peterson. Taken with a Nikon 800mm f/5.6 (1000mm with dedicated teleconverter) on a Nikon D4s at 1/80th sec, f/8, ISO 100

“Fall is when the birds of the north start their long trek south. It’s a celebration of life that brightens your soul! These are Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico. My favorite time to visit there is in early December when the raptors share the skies with the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. How do you tell this story of flight, celebration and migration? There are many ways; my favorite is using my 800mm lens and D4s in early light to capture the explosion off the ponds. The blur in their wings tells the story, one just has to point and shoot and the celebration comes to life in the viewfinder!” – Moose Peterson

Bonus: Check out Moose’s Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens shooting tips!

© Andy Williams

© Andy Williams. Taken with a Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 on a Panasonic GH3

“We often get caught up in the colors of the fall foliage – but there is so much more. Autumn light is low and sweet, even during the non-golden hours! Try to incorporate as much of the rich color and beautiful soft light that is often found in the fall. Oh, and any lens can become a wide angle lens! This was shot handheld for an 8-frame stitched panorama to get the field-of-view I wanted for my composition. When shooting for handheld panos be sure to use manual exposure, manual focus (keep it constant), keep your camera as level as you can throughout the scene, and overlap your shots by 50%.” – Andy Williams

© JD Land

© JD Land. Taken with a Sony a7S at 1/500th sec, ISO 50

“I love shooting in the fall because of the epic skies and sunsets you tend to see more frequently. Fall weather brings dryer and cleaner air which leads to some pretty awesome backdrops for my style of environmental portraiture.” – JD Land

© Guy Tal

© Guy Tal, whose latest book “More Than A Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life” is now available.

“Each autumn I make a special point of being out to photograph when the first snows arrive, while the trees still have some color. The texture of the falling snow gives the images an ethereal and painterly effect.” – Guy Tal

Bonus: Read our interview with Guy Tal and learn more about his philosophy of fostering contentment and satisfaction through life-long discovery and landscape photography.

© Jay Cassario

© Jay Cassario. Taken with a Nikon 24mm f/1.4 on a Nikon D750 at 1/800th sec, f/1.4, ISO 125

“As a wedding photographer based out of the Northeastern US, fall season is extremely popular for engagement shoots. It’s the perfect time of year to use a wide angle lens and bring in all the beautiful fall-colored scenery. I always recommend having clients wear colors that go with the fall theme and use a natural backdrop to make them pop. One of my favorite lenses to use this time of year is the 24mm f/1.4 prime, shot wide open, using all natural light. The golden hour is also extra golden this time of year, so take advantage of shooting during that last hour of sunlight.” – Jay Cassario

© Sean Duggan

October Moonlight, Southern Iceland, 2014 © Seán Duggan. Taken with a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II on a Canon 5D Mark II at 8 secs, f/2, ISO 1000

“Fall colors can be an interesting subject to explore with night photography, especially under the bright light of a large moon. This shot was made with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24mm lens: f/2 for 8 seconds at 1000 ISO. The grasses are naturally a deep warm yellow in autumn. The headlights from a passing car illuminated the scene for a few seconds, adding unplanned light painting to liven up the color palette.” – Seán Duggan

© Allie Miller

© Allie Miller. Taken with a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 on a Nikon D7100 at 1/200th sec, f/4.5, ISO 800

“For fall shoots, my favorite gear is the Westcott ULite 26″ Octobox with Speedlights and a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 because they are easy to carry and to set up anywhere, especially when you are competing with light at certain times in the afternoon as well as cold weather – your subjects won’t be exposed too much while you are setting up your gear.” – Allie Miller

San Juan Mountains, Telluride Colorado

San Juan Mountains, Telluride, Colorado © Marc Muench. Taken with a Nikon 70-200mm f/4 on a Nikon D810 at 55 sec, f/11, ISO 31

“It’s not all about the color. Fall is the time of transition more than any other season and offers some of the best skies for landscape photographers around the world. I look at skies as a major part of the landscape story, and use certain length shutter speeds for different types of clouds. This scene was taken early in the morning during a clearing storm when the clouds were being blown by the northwest winds. Because the major high cumulus clouds had moved east, these low elevation clouds that were building just on the summits of the high ridges were being sheered by the winds, making for a great opportunity to use a 6 stop ND filter and slightly blur them. This scene is a pano of 4 horizontal frames all captured at 55 sec exposure times. This duration of exposure created just enough blur to maintain the wispy characteristics of the clouds but soften the edges.” – Marc Muench

© Matt Stallone

© Matt Stallone. Taken with a Canon 35mm f/1.4L on a Canon 5D Mark III at 1/200th sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

“Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of year to shoot, whether it be weddings or landscapes, the color options are amazing. Lighting plays a huge role in how fall colors are seen. The same tree or bush can go from dark muted reds, to vibrant red, orange, and yellow just by waiting a couple minutes for the sun to peak out from the clouds. Having the sun backlit on the leaves in this shot really brought out the colors without causing any harsh shadows and even gave a nice, little rim light on the couple.” – Matt Stallone

© David Crewe

© David Crewe. Taken with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 on a Nikon D800 at 30 sec, f/22, ISO 160

“The irony is since moving to California is I’ve not really shot anything “fall” like. That being said, the colors of the sunsets in fall are absolutely stunning! This particular shot was taken at Bombay Beach in California using a Nikon D800 with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 at f/22 at an ISO of 160. The shot was actually a 30 second exposure to eliminate most of the motion and rippling in the water. What was amazing was the birds in the image were patient and well behaved enough to hold still for me! When shooting a longer exposure, a sturdy tripod is a MUST as well as uing a remote or intervalometer to even further reduce the amount of motion/impact on your camera.” – David Crewe


Family © Ivan Makarov. Taken with a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 on a Nikon D800 at 1/3200th sec, f/4, ISO 200

“My advice for someone who lives in the area like we do that lacks fall color is to still find subjects that do speak about autumn – like harvest season at a farm, or a Halloween tradition – because certain things only occur during certain seasons. What works well when shooting at a farm (whether it’s an apple farm or a pumpkin patch) is to find line and patterns that work well – such as a row of trees, and shoot where there’s a good shade. We always go apple picking in the morning, so the light can be harsh at that time of the day. But the trees create good shade, so the time of the day doesn’t matter as much. And the best part is that we always finish our visit with a freshly pressed apple juice, with apples we just picked from the tree.

This particular photo was shot with Nikon D800 and Nikon 85 f/1.4 lens which is perfect for shallow depth of field and when one wants to put the main subject in focus while defocusing other less important parts of the image. The other tip for creating an image like this is to get low – as low as the earth – and this will help blur out the foreground as well, creating a good balance for out of focus parts of the photo. Knowing I’d be doing this a lot, I always make sure I dress appropriate – in jeans I don’t mind getting dirty.” – Ivan Makarov

Bonus: Check out great images and advice on family photography in our feature, Ivan Makarov on Being a Dad and a Photographer

The sun rises over the Towers of Paine in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile with heavy lenticular clouds building.

The sun rises over the Towers of Paine in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile with heavy lenticular clouds building. © Jay Goodrich. Taken with a Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS on a Canon 1D X at 0.8 sec, f/22, ISO 400

“Last April I was in Patagonia leading a group of photographers to some of my favorite places in Torres del Paine National Park when the weather did something that Patagonia isn’t especially known for…the wind went away…for 7 days! By the end of the 7 days my clients were tired of photographing reflections, but this last sunrise not only gave them something wonderful, it was the icing on the cake of those 7 days…I explained to them that all those reflections were so rare that they had something that most people did not.

My tip is to shoot your environment no matter what until it changes. If it is reflections in a place that is known for wind you stay with it until the wind returns. If it is a bear hanging around in Yellowstone near the side of the road unaffected by your presence, you stay until it decides to leave. This way you will never regret needing to go back and look for something that is now lost. Fall is fleeting, time to go out and shoot some amazing color around the Northern Hemisphere. I will be back in Patagonia in April of 2016 to see if the wind returns…” – Jay Goodrich

©2014 Jamie A. MacDonald

Top Rail in Autumn © Jamie A. MacDonald. Taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 at 1/6400th sec, ISO 200

“Take advantage of the excess of “golden light” found in the fall to shoot not only fall colors, but to shoot portraits. This photo was shot using the Vintage Art Filter in the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  No other processing was used.” – Jamie A. MacDonald

Aspens in fog, near Ridgway, CO, USA

Aspens in fog near Ridgway, Colorado © Michael Frye. Taken at 1/15th sec, f/16, ISO 200

“It had been a dream of mine to photograph the autumn aspen display in Colorado, and last fall my wife Claudia and I finally make the journey. This is perhaps my favorite image from the trip, made on our last morning in Colorado. It had rained the night before, but elevations above 8,000 feet were socked in with fog. I was psyched, as I really wanted to photograph aspens in the fog. We headed to a dirt road we had scouted before, where we knew we would find some colorful red and orange aspens there, which we hoped it would be in the fog – and luckily they were.

I noticed this beautiful juxtaposition of foreground and background aspens right away, but couldn’t see a composition at first, so decided to try another spot just up the road. But I was drawn back to this view, and soon found a composition I liked, and another, and another. This is my favorite, though it was a difficult choice. I loved the foggy atmosphere, the color, the multiple patterns, and the sense of depth in a smaller-scale landscape. (1/15 sec. at f/16, ISO 200, 50mm; three images blended together to get sufficient depth of field.)” – Michael Frye

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

1 Comment

  • Heday Murphy

    Absolutely beautiful- that “Aspen in Fog in Colorado” thank you for sharing that- inspirational !!!

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