Less Can Be More

September 14, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake.

Tamworth, New Hampshire
When I take newcomers to New Hampshire's White Mountains to view and photograph the autumnal foliage extravaganza, the initial reaction to those first expansive views of hillsides and mountains painted with spectacular color is nearly always the same: unrestrained delight.

Truth be told, those scenes have the same effect on me even though I've experienced them many, many times. Supremely beautiful and awe-inspiring, the Granite State's autumn landscapes are a sight to savor. Non-ConformistThe Magic ForestA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking.

Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula of Michigan

While northern New England remains my favorite place to view and photograph "the show," plenty of other locations stage lovely productions of their own. My personal hit parade includes the Blue Ridge Mountains, Upper Michigan, throughout Québec province, Zion, and of course Grand Teton National Park.

When it comes to capturing the foliage with your camera, sweeping vistas may beckon, but trying to include too much in the composition is often a mistake. Your eyes can edit these (often overwhelming) scenes; the camera cannot make order from chaos without assistance. 

This is not to suggest you shouldn't attempt "big landscapes" or that they won't produce successful images, but you don't have to show everything to tell a compelling story.

Editing what's included in the composition often creates stronger visual impact. Sometimes less is more. Try tightening the scene. This also exponentially expands your creative options; think smaller and you'll probably walk away with images that are more unique.

Three other suggestions/reminders as you prepare to capture foliage season:

Bring the Polarizer

I almost never shoot without mine this time of year. It's not only indispensable on damp days; glare can be an issue almost any time. The polarizer will enhance the brightness and vividness of the leaves even when the sun is out. (It'll also cut through haze and add some depth.)

You can do a lot of things in post-processing but you cannot "fix" glare. 

Mind the Exposure

It's not uncommon for digital cameras to overexpose the reds and yellows, especially when shooting in sunlight. Check the histogram; you might see clipping in the red channel. Underexpose slightly to capture more detail in those brilliant colors.

Embrace Precipitation   

There is no such thing as "bad weather." Drizzle, mist, fog, and light rain create excellent conditions; foliage pops when it's wet. Put a rain jacket on your camera - and yourself - and take advantage of good fortune! Your gear can take it. So can you.

Finally, don't get so wrapped up in making photographs that you forget to take it all in. Set the camera down every once in a while and simply appreciate the extraordinary beauty.

Odds and Ends

If you'll soon be heading out this way to photograph the "show" in Grand Teton National Park, smoke could be an issue. The Moose Fire near Salmon, Idaho (human caused) - already the largest in the United States - grew significantly over this past week and is now just over 130,000 acres. Containment initially dropped with the substantial increase in acreage involved, but is back up to to 47% as of yesterday. That said, estimated total containment has been pushed out one month to October 31st.

Intermittent rain arrived this week with more expected, and temperatures have dropped - both of which should limit significant fire growth. However, air quality was poor throughout the region yesterday, including western Wyoming. 

As for color, rabbit brush in the park is yellow but for the most part the trees aren't yet doing much. As always, expect the south end to kick things off. The aspens around Oxbow Bend and the Buffalo Fork will lag.


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