Larch and the Canadian Rocky Mountains

How to Photograph Stunning Fall Landscapes

Sep 29, 2020

Typically, fall in the Canadian Rocky Mountains lasts only a few short weeks. Mixed in with all that beautiful colour is a variety of lighting and weather conditions. Sometimes you're fortunate enough to get the conditions you had been dreaming about photographing in, but other times conditions are not ideal. Since the fall season is so short, I know that I want to make the very most out of capturing this stunning season before winter blows in and covers everything in a blanket of white. Below are some ways in which you can ensure you capture stunning fall landscapes this year. 

1. Consider your Location

When it comes to landscape photography, most of you will agree that location matters. It’s well worth the effort to research and scout locations you intend to photograph, especially if you seek a specific element, like fall colour, within your images. Not all locations will offer fall colours in abundance. It is also a good idea to consider the elevation you'll be photographing. Foliage at higher elevations can begin their fall show long before their relatives at lower elevations start to turn colour. Weather plays a large factor in how quickly summer gives way to fall, so consider moisture levels over the last several months and whether frosts have hit or if the weather has been warmer. Some knowledge about when colours in a specific location are likely to be at their best and brightest will help you capture the brilliance of fall at its peak. I like to look at mountain webcams to have an idea about what colours look like before I head out for a day of landscape photography.

ISO 31, 26mm, f13, 73sec

2. Light

As in everything to do with photography, good light can make or break a photo. Prime light for landscape photography is around the hours of sunrise and sunset. However, one of the things I love about fall is that this season looks spectacular in all types of light. Don’t put your camera away during the day hours. Full and partial sun images are stunning during the fall. Sunlight deepens fall foliage colour beautifully. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment with light and consider photographing in lighting conditions that you usually don't shoot in.

ISO100, 16mm, f13, 30sec

3. Embrace the mood

Cooler days, dewy mornings, fog patches, rainy or even snowy days with low clouds are common atmospheric conditions that infuse drama into fall images. Embrace the opportunity to capture a moody fall atmosphere. The colour pop inherent within fall looks stunning when it is paired against stormy blue skies or a foggy white atmosphere.

On cloudy days, try using a polarizer. A polarizer can help cut through a hazy atmosphere and deepen the vibrancy in coloured fall foliage. Also, consider long exposure for a little extra drama and smooth out water from blustery fall winds.  

ISO 100, 27mm, f13, 30 sec

4. Isolate details

Who doesn’t love a pop of colour? There is no better time of year to capture the colour pops fall displays in your landscape images. Now is not the time to forget about your telephoto lens. Isolating that single fall element is a beautiful way in which to showcase the glory of this season. 

ISO 800, 70mm, f8, 1/200SS

5. Try panning

Get creative and throw in a little abstract this fall. Panning is an attractive way in which to capture fall. The blur of colour inherent in panning can be a pleasing alternative to the traditional landscape photograph, and it’s a great way to spark creative flow.

When panning vertically, I prefer to use a tripod because it helps keep horizontal lines straight. Panning requires a slower shutter speed, and the amount of blur in your results will depend on your choice in shutter speed and the rate at which you pan your scene. There's no right or wrong here. Permit yourself to experiment. 

ISO 100, 70mm, f22, 1/5 sec 

6. Don’t forget about the night

There's something magical about photography after sun fall. Perhaps it's the stillness and quiet or those twinkly stars. Fall is an exceptionally gorgeous time to photograph under the night sky. Yellow foliage alongside a dark blue sky compliments each other perfectly. You might even get lucky and experience a little extra touch of magic like the hint of an aurora-like I did on this night.  

ISO 3200, 14mm, f2, 20 sec

Take some time this fall and immerse yourself into nature to capture the best that fall offers. Don't be afraid to embrace light and weather elements that you might not always welcome during other seasons. Also, make an effort to capture fall on a smaller and larger scale. There's magic everywhere.  If you make an effort, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Get out there and capture the beauty in this short-lived season.


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