Tips for taking and sharing better photos in the foliage capital of the world

September 18, 2015  
Filed under Feature Stories

Effectively capturing falling leaves can take dozens of shots, a process made much easier by digital photography. (Photo by Adam White)

Effectively capturing falling leaves can take dozens of shots, a process made much easier by digital photography. (Photo by Adam White)

Don’t give up on foliage photography once the leaves start falling late in the season. Many great shots focus on the gorgeous colors covering the ground. (Photo by Adam White)

Don’t give up on foliage photography once the leaves start falling late in the season. Many great shots focus on the gorgeous colors covering the ground.
(Photo by Adam White)

Whereas many foliage shots involve wide landscapes and bright sun, individual trees, limbs or even leaves can be great representations of autumn’s color palette. Pro photographers advise using a variety of different compositions for the best array of foliage shots, including closeups. (Photo by Adam White)

Whereas many foliage shots involve wide landscapes and bright sun, individual trees, limbs or even leaves can be great representations of autumn’s color palette. Pro photographers advise using a variety of different compositions for the best array of foliage shots, including closeups.
(Photo by Adam White)

 

Fall-Photographer

 

By Adam White

Step aside, skiing and syrup: leaf-peeping is king of the Vermont attractions. Upward of 3.5 million people visit Vermont each autumn for foliage season, according to the state’s tourism department. Capturing those colors on film is a passion for residents and visitors alike. The advancement of digital photography over the last 15 years has opened up new worlds for shutterbugs who want to create lasting images of Vermont’s natural beauty. Digital photography offers many advantages over its film roots, many of which come into play when capturing foliage shots. One of the most obvious is image capacity. Whereas a roll of traditional film could hold only a limited number of exposures (24 or 36, commonly), the memory cards in today’s digital cameras can accommodate thousands of shots – even in the largest file formats. The ability to take a much larger number of shots can help with a problem that many amateur photographers have: perspective. While the initial view of a picturesque scene may yield an obvious angle or composition, pro photographers encourage a more patient approach and wide variety of shots that can yield more standout images than just the “obvious” one. “Try something different; odd perspectives, different angles,” said Stephen Goodhue of Vermont Country Images (www.imagesvermont.com). “If your shots look just like every other tourist shot, they’ll get lost in the crowd. Create an image that stands out.” Part of the secret to creating those standout images – and a key to photography of all types – is to develop a relationship with your subject. With foliage and landscapes, that means spending some time in each location and really exploring its potential, rather than just jumping out of your car to snap a few shots before jumping right back in and continuing on your way. “Sit down and relax. Become part of the environment,” said pro photographer Jeff Schneiderman of Williston (www.jeffschneiderman.com). “The longer you stay in one spot, the more your creative juices get flowing. You’ll start to see things differently.” The ability to take hundreds of photos in a given location also enables a level of experimentation that can produce some creative results. Effectively capturing falling leaves in late fall, for example, can takes dozens upon dozens of shots – which would have wasted whole rolls of film, but is no problem with digital. Goodhue said filters are another way to enhance shots, especially at certain times of day. “A circular polarizing filter is usually beneficial in the morning and evening light. It creates different hues, plus adds contour or sculpting,” Goodhue said. A tripod is a vital piece of equipment for outdoor photography, according to Schneiderman. Hand-held works fine for casual shooting in bright sunlight, but a more stable platform lends itself to much better results in a number of ways. “Your images will be sharper, more crisp,” Schneiderman said. “It enables you to use lower shutter speeds. If you’re by a river, you can get that nice, velvety effect with the flowing water but keep the rest of the shot sharp.” For more serious photographers who want to take their shots to the next level, a tripod also enables some advanced techniques such as panorama stitching and High Dynamic Range (HDR) bracketing. Schneiderman said another pro tip is to shoot in RAW format, rather than the JPG format that many amateurs gravitate toward because they are more familiar with the file type. RAW gives the user much more flexibility, once a photo is taken, to manipulate it during the post-process phase using Photoshop or a similar computer program. “When you shoot in RAW, all the same controls you use in-camera are also available in post-process,” Schneiderman said. “You can fine-tune the white balance, tweak the exposure and adjust the contrast and saturation.” That process – which Schneiderman calls the “digital darkroom” – has also transformed photography for many amateurs, who can salvage less-than-perfect pics through adjustments on their computers. But the pros warn that some discretion is best when employing post-process effects, so as not to go overboard and ruin an otherwise good shot. “Being able to enhance saturation is a great tool, but is frequently overdone,” Goodhue said. “I’d recommend just a touch of saturation to enhance and make the image have a little vibrancy.” Once your photos are perfected, you’ll want to share them – and today’s photographer has more options than ever for doing that. From general social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to image-centric ones like Instagram and Flickr, there is almost no limit to the number of places a great foliage photo can be shared. Schneiderman said the interactive nature of sharing photos online can be a valuable tool for the budding photographer. “It’s a nice way to get your work out there and get it looked at,” Schneiderman said. “People can leave feedback, which is cool to get. Peer review can be kind of harsh sometimes, but it can also be a reality check.” One piece of advice for sharing photos online is that quality should trump quantity. “I’ve seen so many amateur photographers showcasing their images who post dozens of images from a shoot,” Goodhue said. “I’d suggest posting only one to four of the absolute best images. Fewer create more impact.” One problem with online sharing is that it may not be doing your photos justice. Many people view the Internet on tablets or smartphones with small screens, which can shrink what may be a striking foliage landscape down to such an extent that much of its impact is lost. People also tend to scroll quickly through feeds on such sites, rather than taking the time to really study and appreciate each image. “Social media is made for instant gratification,” Schneiderman said. “If you really want to share your work, the best way is to frame it and have it on display somewhere. “I’d recommend setting up an exhibit at a restaurant or library, or maybe a craft show. That also gives people a chance to meet the artist; you can talk about the image and share your experience.”

 

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