Through the Gadling Lens: photographing autumn

Here in the United States, Labor Day is now over, and all of the kids are back in school — sure signs that, despite the actual calendar date, summer is gone and fall is right around the corner. This makes me happy: while spring has those beautiful blue skies, winter is certainly pretty with all its whiteness and, let’s face it, summer gets all the really great press, in my opinion, autumn is really the most photogenic season of the year. There are just so many moods of autumn, you know? And so, this week, I thought I’d share some inspiration, with thanks to the people who have shared their images in the Gadling Flickr pool, on how to capture this beautiful season.
1. Colour

First of all, and most obviously, autumn is known for its rich, vibrant colour. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that gets really showy around this time of year (or you’re planning on taking a trip to a similarly beautiful location), there’s no end of inspiration for taking a great photograph that really showcases and shows off autumn’s amazing colours. Here’s a great example:

This beautiful image shared by Matteo.Mazzoni in our Gadling Flickr pool is a great example of not only capturing amazing vibrant colour by filling the image with it, but it also shows how you can use depth of field to really enhances all of the beautiful hues that autumn can bring. A really (and quite literally) a brilliant shot.

But what about if, like me, you live in (or are traveling to) a place that isn’t particularly well-known for its resplendent foliage? (Who am I kidding: here in Houston, we barely have any colour change at all — leaves just turn brown one day and fall off). In this case, if you’re still looking to capture the colours of the season, you need to get a bit more creative:

In this great shot captured and shared by Donna Dow/Funkiller, instead of focusing on entire trees filled with red foliage, she instead captures the colour of only two leaves — the result still gives the feel of fall, still makes you wonder at the vibrancy that is autumn, but it takes the pressure of of her to find an entire treefull of great, bright leaves. I love this: even I might be able to pull this off here in Houston.

2. Mood.

Once you get past autumn’s colour, one of the things I love the most about autumn is how changeable the weather can be, and how the mood can change from bright and crisp one minute, to dark and gloomy the next. If you’re traveling to a location that has a true autumn, don’t forget to capture some of the dark moods of autumn in addition to the light ones. The following are two great examples:

I love this shot of this foggy autumn day in England (particularly since I lived in London for a little under 2 years, and boy, does this look familiar). This image was shared by mingthien in the Flickr pool, and is a great example of how sometimes sharpness and deep contrast can detract from the mood of an image. Looking at this shot, you can almost feel the tiny little cold drops of moisture in the air, and the dampness that sinks into your bones.

I think I feel a cold coming on.

In contrast, however, look at this image:

This amazing image, shared by t3mujin, was taken in Paris — and with far more contrast in this shot, the image conveys the darkness autumn is sometimes capable of creating. I love the pop of orange in the leaves on the ground — the telltale sign of the season — and I particularly like the inclusion of the man in the right corner, bracing himself against the windy drizzle. Beautiful, beautiful mood.

3. Activities and sports.

I think when most of us think of seasonal activities and sports, we tend to think of only two seasons: summer and winter. But the truth is, when you take a look around, there’s usually always something going on, even in autumn. And the beauty of capturing these activities in the autumn is that oftentimes the scenery and the setting around the action can help convey the season.

One great example:

(An admission: it’s entirely possible that I’m drawn to this photograph shared by localsurfer because it was apparently taken in Devon, and my English husband used to constantly surf in his neighbouring county of Cornwall. They’re both bloody nuts, if you ask me — the water in England is cold). This shot appeals to me because even though it’s a pretty classic image of a surfer on a beach, the fact that (a) the surfer is wearing a wetsuit (and judging from the bunching around his neck, a pretty thick one, at that), and (b) the colour of the ocean is mirroring the grey clouds, above, it’s pretty clear this shot was taken on a chilly day in autumn. Beautiful capture.


I love this image shared by ultraclay!. In this shot, captured in Rockefeller Center in New York City, the presence of the ice rink makes it clear that the shot was taken in a colder time of year; however, the skater isn’t bundled up like you would imagine she would be in the dead of winter. In addition, I love the movement of her hand that was captured, as well as her placement to the left-of-center. Really great work.

4. Comfort food

Finally (and you had to know this was coming), I love the concept of doing some food photography to capture the mood of the season. Summer might be all about cooling beverages and crisp salads, but as the temperature starts to drop, it starts to be all about comfort food, baby. So why not capture the mood that comfort food tends to bring to the season? For example:

Doesn’t this crepe look delicious? Styggiti shot this image while in Brittany, France, and claims it was easily the best crepe he’d ever had. And there’s just something about the soft lighting, the grilled vegetables, and that fantastic fried egg in the middle that just totally screams comfort food. This meal is definitely not one meant to be enjoyed in the heat of the summer — this is a meal that’s all about taking the chill off.

And finally, how about this shot:

To me, this shot screams autumn: the night is cool enough for a bonfire, and the sausages on the stick are all about that wonderful, hearty smoke-filled comfort food that is just perfect as the year is starting to wane. This looks to me like the perfect late summer/early autumn night. Thanks for sharing this, sgoralnick.

Hopefully, the above images will inspire to hang on to your camera as the seasons change, and keep clicking away to capture the new mood. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: colour!

I mentioned before that when I was a new photographer, a photographer friend made me shoot only in black and white for my first few rolls of film. His reasoning, rightly or wrongly, was that “colour film hides a multitude of sins,” and only by shooting in black and white would I learn the important lessons of contrast and texture. And I couldn’t help but believe part of his motivation was his belief that black-and-white photographer was just cooler. You know, Ansel Adams-like. More … pure.

Fifteen years later, and I’m now bold enough to confess: I like colour.

I can’t help it — there’s just something about a beautifully saturated, richly-coloured image that excites me. Of course, like most photographers, I can appreciate a really good black and white image, but given the choice, I’ll shoot in colour every time. And like with most aspects of photography, there are certain tricks to composing a great colour shot — so this week, we’ll do a little colour theory and explain our colour composure works.
1. Monochromatic colour

One of the easiest ways, of course, to take an impactful colour photograph is to simply saturate the frame with one specific colour — either fill the frame of your viewfinder with your subject so that its colour dominates the frame, or “layer” the same colour: make sure that several subjects in your shot are the same colour, so that the effect is, again, a full frame with one colour. Here are some great examples:

In the above shot shared by il lele and taken in Japan, the red of this “tunnel” is the predominant colour — and so il lele ensured that the frame was filled by the strong hue. The result is an incredibly striking shot.

Similarly, in this beautiful image shared by crafterm, the strong colour green of these leaves in Australia were layered, so that green of the leaves in the foreground are layered against the green of the foliage behind. The result, even though the image is not panoramic, leaves you with a strong impression of the verdant scenery around the photographer.

When I shot the image of the London Eye in November of last year, above, the sky was blue with dusk, it was raining, and the blue Christmas lights in the barren trees were reflecting on the blue pavement, below. I therefore set my shutter speed and aperture to ensure that I capture the entire blue scene without the distortion of a flash, resulting in blue-saturated and moody image, above.

Finally, just to make the point that these types of shots can be captured even with human subjects, take a look at the image of my friend, Josh, above. Josh was walking through a shopping center on the island of Grenada, when he noticed that his shirt was the identical colour of an adjacent wall. He handed his camera over to his wife, and affected the pose above — resulting in a really funny shot; however, because of the striking colour, it’s an intriguing image as well.

The Colour Wheel

For photographs which feature more than one colour, a great way to ensure that your images communicate the emotion behind the image is frame the shot with the colour wheel (shown at left) at the back of your mind. A great summary of the basics of colour theory can be found at this site. Put simply, the colour wheel is basically the entire colour spectrum in circular form. Colours which are next to each other (like red and orange, say, or blue and green) are called “analogous colours” — they’re generally similar and harmonious. Colours which are directly opposite each other, like orange and blue, or purple and yellow, are called “complementary colours.”

Let’s take a look at some examples at how using analogous colours and complementary colours can affect the mood of a photograph.

1. Analogous Colours.

As I mentioned above, analogous colours are colours that are found adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. Because the colours are so close in colour range to each other, they tend to evoke a feeling of harmony, and any related emotions that might come to mind: like peace, or tranquility, or balance. What’s interesting is that these communicated feelings tend to occur no matter which colours along the wheel make up the majority of the photograph, they just have to be colours adjacent to each other.

Here are some great examples:

The image above, shared by ohad*, is particularly pleasing and soothing because the predominant colours in the image are blue and green, which are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. These harmonious colours (together with the softly undulating horizontal lines in the photo) tend to exude a feeling of peace and tranquility — which is perfectly congruous with what ohad* named the image himself: “Magical Mystery Doors.” It’s a beautiful shot which conveys the idea of calm because it focuses on the actual colours of the image — not just the building or the doors. Beautifully shot.

I love this image shared by Willy Volk, primarily because it makes the point of analogous colours by featuring three adjacent colours on the colour wheel: green, blue and purple. This image, captured in Colorado, definitely conveys a calming, restful mood. Really well done.

And finally, just to show that these emotions can be conveyed by analogous colours, even if they’re not the stereotypical “peaceful” colours of blue and green, take a look at the following, shared by fiznatty:

Even though this photograph features the generally exciting colours of red and orange, because they fall next to each other on the colour wheel, the image also evokes a feeling of harmony — the colours don’t clash, they work together. If this image had been shot so that the harmonious colours didn’t fill the frame, the emotion and feelings conveyed by the shot would likely be totally different.

3. Complementary colours

Despite how it sounds, complementary co
lours don’t really “complement” each other. Since they fall on opposite sides of the colour wheel, they actual create stark contrasts to each other — and therefore, they tend to create an aura of excitement, or related emotions: celebration, for example, or exuberance.

Here are a few examples:

This great shot shared by thnkfast is a beautiful example about how using complementary colours — in this case, the vibrant red of the fruit against the green background — helps convey a mood of exuberance with this shot, captured in the Vancouver Aquarium. This isn’t an image that calms you. This is one that makes you happy: excited about catching this moment in nature, perhaps even excited for the butterfly in finding the nectar.

And finally, I love this shot shared by nabil.s of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. While the nabil.s says that he capture this image at 6 p.m. one evening, the shot hardly conveys a feeling of peace now that the day is ending. Rather, the startling complementary colours of orange and blue (opposites on the colour wheel) communicate that the night is just beginning — exciting things are about to start happening. A beautiful image.

Now, as always, the tips I’ve shared in this post are merely guidelines — there’s nothing that says that all of your shots must contain only analogous colours, or complementary colours … or, for that matter, any colour … they’re just thoughts to keep in the back of your mind and as part of your arsenal when composing your next great travel shots. As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below, or send me an email directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom — I’ll be happy to address them in upcoming posts of Through the Gadling Lens.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.