Breathtaking autumn images and why they work

When asked, most photographers will tell you that their favourite season is autumn because of the wonderful colours and low sun. It’s also helpful that the sun rises at a relatively humane hour while sunset is conveniently late for fitting around work commitments. And of course the temperature is relatively high before the bone-chilling winds of winter strike up.

But naturally there’s far more to taking a fabulous autumn photographs than just popping out with a camera at the right time of year. In this article we’ll take a look at some great autumnal images and unravel a little of what makes them so good to help you on the way to taking better photographs.

Colour contrast

Autumn on Cape Cod by Denis Tangney Jr

Autumn on Cape Cod by Denis Tangney Jr

Autumn is a season of warm tones with rich red, orange and yellow in the trees and across woodland floors. As well as creating some foreground interest to help give a sense of depth and scale, the inclusion of the green boat in this shot injects some colour contrast which effectively intensifies the warm hues.

Low sun

Autumn Tree and Sun during Sunset by konradlew

Autumn Tree and Sun during Sunset by konradlew

The sun is relatively low in the sky during the autumn and this increases the chances of being able to capture it filtering through foliage, bringing the colours to life like a stained-glass window. It also lacks some of the power it has at the height of summer, which means that highlights are a little less harsh and as well as being longer, the shadows are less dense. As a result there are some creative opportunities to be had by including the sun in the frame.

Leading lines

Wooden Jetty on a Becalmed Lake at Sunset by allou

Wooden Jetty on a Becalmed Lake at Sunset by allou

This image has a classic example of a leading line, something that draws your eye into the shot. As well as performing that role the pier in this shot acts adds some foreground detail, helping to give a sense of scale to the scene.

Shooting at sunset means that the sun is very low in the sky so the pier is illuminated from the side as well as above and the light is a nice warm colour while the blue sky above is reflected in the still lake. The colours are intensified while the contrast level is reduced.

The wider picture

Rydal Water by Rick Bowden

Rydal Water by Rick Bowden

This shot was taken in the Lake District, looking down a valley to Rydal Water. The russet-coloured bracken at the bottom of the image provides foreground interest while the sinuous path draws your eye into the scene and towards the lake. 

The low sun is illuminating the trees from the side, bringing out the colour of the leaves and throwing long, soft shadows to their left. Meanwhile the grass is bright green, contrasting with the warmer tones of the foliage.

The photographer has also found an angle that captures reflections of the landscape in the water, enhancing the colour in the scene. Using a small aperture ensures that much of the image is sharp while a tripod enables a low sensitivity setting to be used to minimise noise.

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Angela Nicholson has been head of testing for various photography magazines and now works as a freelance reviewer, writer and photographer. You can find her @AngeNicholson on Twitter.