• Rich Engelbrecht

Autumn in the Finger Lakes is magical.


Believe it or not, autumn is almost upon us. Autumn in the Finger Lakes is magical. Autumn is, perhaps, the most photogenic season of the year. It features misty mornings, fiery sunsets, and rich oranges and reds in the trees before the leaves fall and blanket the landscape. Later in the season you may see dewdrops on the undergrowth and the first frost as we move into October and November.

The most noticeable aspect of autumn pictures is the distinctive color: the rich warm tones and the range of browns, reds and oranges. This abundance of warm tones can fool your camera if you use auto white balance. To boost the richness of the colors you can try selecting the Cloudy preset.


Another way to boost the rich colors is to use a polarizing filter. If you don’t have one of these then use your polarized sunglasses and hold one of the lenses in front of the camera lens. Rotate it a little bit after to find the best position.

As the main emphasis of most autumnal shots is the changing color of leaves, it pays to find a location that not only has a wealth of trees but a range of different plant life to create a wide range of tones in your image, from green to brown and red.

Different species of trees will change color differently and at varying times, while others will maintain their full greenery all year, giving a wide spectrum through your scene.

A good landscape image always relies on strong composition and the easiest way to achieve this is by using the rule of thirds. The principle is to divide your image up into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The result is a series of lines that cross your image, which can then be used as a guide for your composition. It is best to place your horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, and to have any foreground interest in line with one of the vertical lines.

Following these rules avoids subjects being placed directly in the centre of the shot and creates much more pleasing compositions.

A few ideas:

  • If you position a leaf between your camera and the sun, the back lighting will illuminate it all the way through making it appear to glow and revealing the details of the veins. If the sky is visible between the leaves, try it on the blue sky day for a beautiful color contrast.

  • Photographing leaves can be especially difficult on a windy day. On these occasions I try to find reflections of the fall colors and create a more abstract image.

  • Leaves that have fallen on the ground are excellent subjects. Try getting a squirrel’s point of view for a unique perspective.

  • Try looking straight up into the trees to emphasize their tallness and magnificence.

  • Combining the beautiful colors of the fall leaves with a silky smooth waterfall can be magical. Try using a long exposure to blur the water as it cascades past the fallen leaves.