The morning started out under foggy conditions in the New York Botanical Garden. The autumn colors were at their peak, but they looked somewhat subdued as they disappeared into the mist. By mid-morning, the fog had almost completely dissipated and the sun was struggling to make an appearance. As I approached a couple of Japanese Zelkova trees, I noticed that a thick stand of bushes that used to be there had been completely cleared. This allowed me to view the trees from a totally new angle, which had previously been inaccessible. I positioned one tree directly behind another one—making the one in front appear as though it had far more branches than it actually did. From a wide-angle, ground-level perspective, I was able to include much of the colorful background. Also, the trees on the far left and right leaned inward just enough to create the perfect framing elements.
The sun wasn’t quite at full power yet, but it was strong enough to create some areas of high contrast. I did an HDR compilation of five images (+/- 2 stops, 0) to balance out the difficult light.
The brilliant colors of autumn have faded. Most of the leaves have already fallen; only a handful of stubborn diehards remain clinging to the trees. I used to think that come the end of October, the “show” is over until I started noticing all the little holes in these weather-beaten leaves. If the sun is placed directly behind them, a multitude of interesting sunbursts can be created.
I specifically look for low-hanging leaves with an unobstructed line of sight of the sun in the background. Exposure is best determined manually. Auto exposure will only drive you nuts as the meter bounces from one extreme to another with each subtle movement of the leaves—resulting in a series of inconsistent exposures. I simply spot-meter the area of the sky next to the sun and lock it in. Now, no matter how much the leaves want to dance around, the overall exposure will remain the same. For a more dramatic image and to better emphasize the sunbursts, I’ll sometimes slightly underexpose the sky. So as not to underexpose the leaves as well, a flash is a must. Fill-flash isn’t always strong enough in these situations, so I usually turn it off and use the flash at normal power. If necessary, I increase its output by a stop, which restores detail in the leaves as well as any lingering traces of color. Continue reading →
I often look at autumn as nature’s version of information overload. With fall colors exploding all over the place, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where to point the camera. Trying to capture everything in one frame often results in not capturing anything at its best advantage.
I’ve learned to use a variety of simple techniques to help make sense out of this visual potpourri. One way is to extract a subject out of its environment in order to help it stand out. A zoom lens is usually the best lens of choice to perform a “visual extraction.” Continue reading →