Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I’m looking for artistic drama when I do fall colors. I’ve found that the drama is in the contrasts of color and/or lighting. The lighting I look for is back-light or directional side light to pick up detail.  That means I go out in the morning, for soft Front-light, or the evening (about an hour before sunset) for Back-light or Directional (side) light.

To compositionally zero-in on the drama, whether I’m doing a relative big view or a few leaves, my lens is usually zoomed-in to 200mm and sometimes I have my 1.4x extender mounted for a little more compression effect.  In addition, I’m very careful about depth-of-field and subject sharpness in ALL of my photography. Doesn’t matter if I’m doing portraits or fine art I want my subject to be sharp and in most cases I want the background soft (controlled by shallow depth-of-field) for good separation. That being said—even though I own the superb Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens—I never use it at f2.8 for portraits or fine art objects. The depth-of-field at f2.8 (or 3.5 and 4.0) is just too shallow, particularly when you move in close at 200mm. 

This first image, done recently, is a nice example of direct, directional, sunlight about 20 minutes before sunset.

 f6.3 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 175mm
You have to be careful with front light when photographing any powerful colors to avoid chromic-clipping (blowing out detail as the colors “bloom”). That’s why we wait for the late (magic hour) light—it’s warmer and softer—which lowers the dynamic range of the scene. 

You’ll notice that my depth-of-field in this image is just enough at f6.3, to keep these two leaves sharp while knocking the entire background way out of focus.  

This next image is also side lit by the setting sun, but a different technique…

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 192mm
This was done about 45 minutes before sunset. The focus of this image was, of course, that great fence. Since I wanted to photograph down the fence and capture that great shadow it cast on the dry grass, I put my 1.4x extender on my 70-200mm, f2.8 lens, and walked towards it to get this crop. Because I’m photographing down the length of the fence I needed lots of depth-of-field, so I went to f11.0, which gave me a shutter speed I could still hand hold.

Sad to say this old farmstead was recently sold and the developers leveled the 8-acre site—the house, barn, all the trees and this fence are all gone! :(

In the next part I’ll talk about back-lighting, then followed by using morning light.  ’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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