Firstly congratulations to Karen Tickle (Karent) for winning October’s ‘Shooting at Dusk and at Dawn’ photo challenge competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of December, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 30th November to be in with a chance of winning!
For this month’s Expert Advice article our resident photographer, Phil Surbey, set himself the task of capturing Autumn
This month, I have got another great subject for you to have a go at, because it’s autumn and you can’t fail to get some great shots at this time of year. As you can see, I’ve selected several example images as usual, but in shooting to enter this month’s Photo Challenge competition, the choice of subject is always entirely up to you. Just make sure you have autumn as your backdrop or theme.
You could get out there right now and shoot early on in the season, when the leaves are just starting to change their colour – as I am already seeing in the countryside around my home. Or you could wait a bit until they have fallen and shoot with “autumn’s golden gown” of leaves on the ground, as a certain hit song once put it. Don’t wait too long, though, as you need to be sure to send me your best shot for the chance to win a great prize!
Of course, the Photo Challenge is really intended as a starting point, and the monthly themes I choose to set are inspiration for a hobby that will last us all a lifetime. So, I hope you will continue to enjoy photographing this lovely season that our American cousins prosaically call ‘the fall’, for as long as it lasts – quite a while after the competition closing date, I am sure. I’m in no hurry to get to the long, cold winter we are being promised!
Anyway, how to go about capturing autumn at its best? Shooting with the sun lighting your scene can provide a beneficial boost to those amazing natural colours and contrast. Alternatively, though, shooting very early with a morning mist can produce some very atmospheric results. Or, for a totally different approach, why not try shooting at night-time and lighting up those trees artificially with a flash?
I really like shooting foliage into the sun, so that the strong natural light is coming into the camera through the leaves. Shots like this can be great at really shouting ‘autumn’; as examples, take a look at my first six images here. This series of shots was taken at the same session and – though it might not be obvious – of a single tree.
Shot number 1 has had quite a bit of processing in post, but 2-5 are relatively straight. It can be a nice touch to include some lens flare from the sun in the shot, as you can see with number 4. I have carefully positioned myself to just get the right amount of sun showing through – too little and the attempt has failed; too much and it ruins the effect altogether.
My regular readers will not be shocked to see some car shots in the mix again this month! One of my good mates owns a wonderful old Morgan sports car and, by pure luck, I drove past his house when I was thinking about the autumn theme for this month. I saw that he had parked his car under a lovely autumnal tree, so I popped over and asked him if it would be OK to take some shots of it – and had he got a small set of steps I could use? Don’t ask for much, do I?! But, better than that, out he comes with a monster stepladder that put me well up into the canopy of the tree itself.
The result, as you can see from these three shots – plus one showing you the setup – is that the high viewpoint proved key to simplifying my composition. These shots were all, again, relatively straight out of the camera with nothing much needed in post. The snap of the overall scene is so you can see why I went up high given the opportunity. And, though it should not need saying: NEVER risk injury, even for a wonderful shot! I made sure the ladder was solidly positioned and my friend hung around to stabilise it for me throughout. (It’s possible he had an idea of what me falling onto his pride and joy would do the bodywork!)
Next up, we are off to my local golf course for the final set of shots. These were taken at both ends of the day – some very early and some getting pretty late, to make sure I could capture the gorgeous warm colour balance. Not that it was warm in terms of body temperature, but every photographer knows to wrap up and get out there regardless! Anyway, nothing clever going on here – just good light/composition and subject matter. (And yes, I asked the golfers if they would mind me shooting them; always good practice.)
Whether you use figures to set off against a seasonal backdrop, find something ‘other’ positioned in an autumnal tableau, as I did with the Morgan, or shoot Mother Nature herself displaying her autumn collection… it is obviously your choice. I very much look forward – as always – to going through all your entries and awarding a great prize for the most accomplished photograph of the month that really encapsulates the theme. Let’s try for a bumper number of entries, eh?
All my illustrative shots this month were taken on either my trusty LUMIX G5 or the splendid GX7. Both cameras I intentionally kept set to iA – Intelligent Auto – mode, giving me JPEG images to show what the camera can do on its own. I hope these have provided you with some inspiration to enter this month’s Photo Challenge, and that you’ll all have a chance to get out and enjoy the season as I will continue to do.
Of course, shooting some spectacular autumnal scenery is not only possible in the countryside. Not at all – I was in London recently and many trees along the streets are already ‘on the turn’ to highly photogenic effect; I am sure the parks are every bit as lovely for shooting in as my golf course, too. And even if you’re not able to go shooting afresh, because somehow autumn is not yet forthcoming in your area, I’m pretty sure all of you will have already taken some seriously good shots of the season in years past – which it would not be cheating to enter!
Whatever you are doing this month, always keep your camera at your side and enjoy your shooting!