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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Shooting to Highlight Glamorous Red Autumn Leaves

2022-07-21
6
258

Creating photographs of landscapes with vivid colours isn’t just about retouching during post-processing. In fact, if you shoot with intent, you can even photograph a scene so that the colours stand out, straight out of the camera! Landscape photographer Yoshizumi Suzuki shares how his exposure settings and composition, aided by a PL filter, came together to capture the brilliant red of these Japanese rowan trees by the water. (Reported by Yoshizumi Suzuki, Digital Camera Magazine)

EOS 80D/ EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 200mm (320mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 0.5 sec, EV -1.7)/ WB: Auto
PL filter used
Location notes: Shirakoma Pond, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Timing: Early October, around 6am

In this article:


One of not many species with leaves that turn true red

There aren’t many species of trees with leaves that turn true red in autumn. The Japanese rowan is one such species. When I saw that the ones by the Shirakoma Pond in Nagano Prefecture had fully turned colour, I wanted to capture their vivid red tones.

 

1. Shoot at a timing that gives the best colour

At the shooting location, the morning sun at 6am shone from a low angle. The softer morning light and its angle cast less shadows on the trees, which made it easier to enhance their colour.

 

2. Equipment that helped: Telephoto lens, PL filter


i) Telephoto lens

A longer focal length (200mm, resulting in an angle of view equivalent to 320mm on a full-frame camera) allowed me to fill more of the frame with the red trees. That’s the most straightforward way to draw attention to a subject! 

Tip: Scrutinise the frame for unwanted objects
When shooting something so close-up, unwanted objects will look even more prominent. Before you conclude that you’ve nailed the shot and move on, check it all the way to the edges and make sure you didn’t capture anything unintended! For landscape photo, such objects may include trash and other manmade objects.


ii) PL filter

A polarising filter (PL filter) increases the contrast and reduces light reflecting off the leaves, making colours look more vivid.

Also see:
Using Lens Filters: 2 Techniques from Professional Photographers
Beautify Your Shots with the EF-EOS R Drop-in Filter Mount Adapter

 

3. Underexpose the shot

The scenery surrounding the red trees were dark. For scenes like this, if you use evaluative metering or even centre-weighed metering to help you find the “correct” exposure, the trees may end up overexposed. Since I was using the Aperture-priority AE mode, I used negative exposure compensation to underexpose and enhance the red.


Overexposed leaves

“Correct” exposure based on evaluative metering leads to the leaves becoming overexposed.

Know this: If the surrounding scenery is bright…
The opposite is true: if the scenery surrounding the subject is bright, the subject might end up underexposed. If you are using a semi-automatic mode (P mode, Tv mode, or Av mode), apply positive exposure compensation.

 

4. Composition: Include the reflection so that the red leaves command more attention

The trees with red leaves partially lined the bottom of a tall coniferous forest. If I were to capture them without the reflections, due to the camera’s aspect ratio, they would take up less of the frame and look much less impressive. Incorporating the reflections in a split composition adds volume by allowing the red leaves to occupy a larger proportion of the frame.


Composed with no reflection

The red leaves of the Japanese rowan trees are overwhelmed by the surrounding elements.

Tip: Make sure that you don’t accidentally filter out the water reflection
It’s tempting to turn your PL filter until it gives you the strongest effect on the colours. However, this might cause the reflections on the water surface to disappear, as they are also formed from the reflected light that the PL filter reduces! Play around and find the best balance between colour intensity and the water reflection.


Wondering what else you can do during your shoot to bring out the colours in scenery? Here are more tips, techniques, and case studies:
How Do I Use Colour Accents to Draw Attention to a Subject?
Landscape Colours: The Subtle Beauty of a Waterfall in Blue & White
Landscape Colours: Composing a Romantic Pink & Purple Seascape
How to Render Colours with the White Balance Correction Function

More ideas on reflection photography in:
Hacks You'll Need When Including Reflection to Your Landscape Shots
Reflections: A Steam Train Rides Off into the Dramatic Sunset
Reflections: A Castle at Night with the Trompe l'oeil Painting Effect

Need inspiration for photographing autumn scenery? Feast your eyes on these scenes and pick up some shooting tips along the way!:
Where to Photograph Autumn Leaves in Japan: 2 Spots Off the Beaten Track
Handling Natural Light: A Corridor of Light on an Autumn Forest
Nailing the Shot: A Train Amid a Grand Autumn Landscape

About the Author

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Yoshizumi Suzuki

Yoshizumi shoots all sorts of natural landscapes, from flowers to forests to waterfalls and mountains, and aims to bring out the true beauty of his subjects. He considers long exposure photography as his speciality.

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