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Tree Colors, Acadia National Park - Olympus E-M1, f/8 @1/80 sec, 190mm, ISO 400, no filters
Tree Colors, Acadia National Park / Olympus E-M1, f/8 @1/80 sec, 190mm, ISO 400, no filters

Photographing the fall foliage is always fun-after all not many of us can resist all of those wonderful colors that excite the eye and the imagination. But it can also present several challenges, if you believe as I do, that the simplest approach leads to strongest images.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with color. But for me the most important thing is maintaining a sense of visual balance within the frame. While our brains have the amazing ability to simplify visual information when we observe the world around us, a camera does the opposite. It captures everything equally without regard for emotional and/or psychological biases.

As photographers it’s critical to understand this and use the rectangular frame to eliminate all but the most essential elements. Those elements can be a single leaf or a whole forest. What they are is not important. What is important is that they convey the message of your image clearly and directly.

Tree Colors was my attempt to express what I felt when I first saw this group of colors. I noticed how the colors complemented each other, leading my eye without any effort on my part. For me this is often a sign that there’s potential to capture balance and harmony in an image. It’s as if my brain limits my field of view, and I consider how I can do the same with a camera. This pre-visualization is what helps me decide on a focal length and overall technical approach to making the picture.

I used a relatively long focal length (180mm) to isolate and emphasize the flow of colors in the composition. The corners are critical in creating the diagonals of tree trunks from bottom left to top right, and the colors from bottom right to top left. I love finding multiple diagonals because I think they can really push the viewers eye through an image.

An aperture of f/8 makes sure I have enough depth of field for all the leaves and tree trunks in the general foreground. (I was also about 50 feet away from the trees.)

These are the leading lines that establish the primary visual design of the image. This what I based the entire picture on, which was a fraction of the overall scene.
The tree trunks and surrounding shadows provide a rhythmic contrast to the leading lines and also create another diagonal. In essence they add depth to the colors.
The tree trunks and surrounding shadows provide a rhythmic contrast to the leading lines and also create another diagonal. In essence they add depth to the colors.
These 4 areas show the overall color patterns that allow the image to remain simple and intimate.
These 4 areas show the overall color patterns that allow the image to remain simple and intimate.

Slow down, look for the essential elements in your images, and your compositional skills will improve. You need a lot less than you think inside the frame to convey everything you feel about nature. It just takes practice, and that’s something we can all do if we invest the time.

Final print on Canson Infinity Printmaking Rag paper (Epson 3880), which adds the soft yet rich painterly look and feel that I think complements the image.

I always love to hear your questions and feedback, so please share them below. Thanks for reading!

RR Jr

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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. This is an amazing image. The composition is indeed perfect to demonstrate how to train your eye, let alone it’s a master piece.

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