I get a little melancholy when I see watermelons. Let me explain. Towards the end of summer in Ukraine, farmers come to the city to sell watermelons from huge crates on street corners. It signifies the beginning of the end of summer.
As photographers, however we should not feel melancholy about the end of summer as it signifies the beginning autumn and autumn is one of the best times of year to be a photographer. It’s not just about the rich vibrant colours of the foliage either. Autumn holds many attractions for photographers and today we are going to detail some of them.
Whilst at first glance that might seem an odd statement, what it really means is sunrise is later and sunset, earlier. Anyone getting up to shoot twilight on a summer morning will have to be out of bed not much after 4am. Autumn sunrise times are much later, depending on where you are. The same is true for the evening, no waiting around until gone 11pm for the blue hour, you can shoot some great shots and still have time to grab a beer before the bars close.
A byproduct of the shorter days is longer blue and golden hours. The sun’s trajectory being much lower means the time of golden light and long shadows is significantly longer than in the summer. This in turn gives us time to relax and get more great shots. The cooler weather of autumn also means less pollution and hence clearer skies. Which leads us nicely onto weather itself.
Varied and Changeable Weather
For many, summer is a time of endless days of sunshine and heat. Both can be very draining on a photographer. Long cloudless days are not great for outdoor photography in general and the heat can sap even the fittest. In Autumn the weather begins to change and become much more varied.
Early Autumn will be comfortably warm but there will be clouds and perhaps showers. Both can add great drama to your landscape or city shots. Storms may be more frequent, with the possibility of rainbows and dark clouds backlit by a low sun.
As autumn progresses the cooler weather creeps in. Keep an eye out for the local weather forecasts, dropping temperatures and high pressure can give rise to mist and fog. This combined with the longer morning golden hour can lead to stunning images, particularly near water.
Don’t discount the overcast days of late autumn either. The cold blue light of a cloudy day is the perfect compliment to the rich oranges and reds of autumn. Which leads us nicely into foliage.
Yellows, Reds and Golds
But not only. Of course autumn is renown for the vibrant saturated colours of dying foliage. But it is also more than that. It is a time of harvest, sunflowers, vineyards, wheat, rapeseed and many other crops. Each has its own unique colour creating a quilted pattern across the autumnal landscape.
The trees all drop leaves at different times which gives us that riot of of colour at the red end of the spectrum. Meanwhile the evergreens remain ever green providing color relief to our images.
Some Shooting Tips
All the colour can be a challenge for our sensors. Even now digital cameras struggle with reds, so your best option is to shoot RAW. You will have a greater latitude to over saturated reds and also be able to tone them down in post production.
Don’t look as just the big picture either. Whilst the sweeping autumnal landscape may be a majestic sight, there are also the details. A lone golden leaf of top of an icy pond. The setting sun behind the dying leaves of an oak tree. Go wide, go close, go macro. There are shots to suit every lens in autumn.
Its also a great time to be a drone photographer. Get up high and show the riot of color from a unique elevated perspective. Get close to tree tops and look straight down on the mixture if different trees or fields of crops.
It has always been my opinion that autumn is the very best time of year for photographers living in temperate climes. Whist memories of the long hot days of summer begin to fade, you can create new ones full of colour and atmosphere. What are your favourite things about autumn?