Foliage again?

That’s right. And until it’s gone and all the leaves are on the ground, welcome to the Jeff Sinon Photography Autumn In Technicolor Blog.

I’m headed to the mountains soon, for what I hope to be a long and fruitful day of photographing this years glorious display of color, in hopes of bringing you new spectacular images.

I’ll be hiking in for sunrise to photograph a grand scenic view, and finishing off the day at the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge for a fall interpretation of my favorite view in New Hampshire.

*   *   *

Until then, here’s some of Mother Nature’s handy-work from a year or two ago.

Color On The Ridge

I’d also like to leave you with something more than a pretty picture, so here are a few tips for photographing all that great fall color.


–   1   –

Use a circular polarizer(CPL)

It’ll help saturate the colors and remove reflections and glare from the often shiny leaves.

However, if you’re trying to capture a wide scene using a wide-angle lens, leave the CPL off. Since the effect of the filter is greatest at 90° to the light source, in this case the sun, you’ll get uneven polarization across the sky.

That takes a lot of work in post processing to try to correct, and I’ve never been 100% happy with my results. THIS image shows how uneven polarization can ruin a shot. In it you’ll see how the sky on the right of the frame is much darker and gets gradually brighter as you look to the left. This is the result AFTER I think I spent an hour trying to”fix” that sky, and I’m still not happy with it. Lesson learned!

So in short, small intimate scenes with no sky, CPL on. Wide scenic vistas with a lot of sky, CPL stays in your bag.

–   2   –

Watch the reds.

The polarizer is great for helping to boost those fall colors, but be careful not to over-do it.

Over saturated reds are probably the most common mistake I see (and have made) in otherwise good photos of autumn.

My Canon cameras are particularly fond of over-saturating the red channel, so I’m constantly checking the histogram.

If your camera is capable of doing so, set the LCD to show the RGB histogram(read the manual, it is your friend) during image preview, and make sure to keep an eye on the histogram for the red channel.

If it’s bunched up on the right, you may have to dial back the exposure a bit.

Over-saturated reds, or any color for that matter, not only don’t look right, you’ll also lose quite a bit of detail in the over-saturated parts of the photo.

If I do find I’ve got over-saturated reds, I’ll run the image through Viveza 2.

By dropping a few control points on the areas of over saturation, I can adjust only the places and colors in the image that I feel need it, without affecting the rest of the image.

(See the power of control points HERE)

The adjustment brush in Lightroom can also be used to tone things down as well.

–   3   –

Embrace drizzly, overcast days.

If you want to see the already brilliant fall color really pop, grab a raincoat for you and your camera and get out there.

The best color is very short-lived, and with limited time to capture it I’m not about to let a little rain stop me.

Some of my best fall images, like this one from last year, were made on days I was constantly wiping water off of my lens.

(Yes, the sky will be boring and give you exposure headaches on overcast days, so include little to none of it in the frame.)

–   4   –

Preventing over-saturation in post processing.

Now that you’ve captured your beautiful fall images it’s time to enhance them to create the feeling and mood you’re after.

There are two steps I’ve found to help prevent me from unleashing over saturated, gaudy looking images on you, my adoring fans.

Everyone wants their fall foliage photos to pop, so the saturation slider is the first thing they reach for.

But the human eye is a tricky thing, so as you’re slowly move that slider to the right a little at a time trying to achieve that pop, your eye very quickly gets use to what it is seeing.

A little looks good, so bump it up another notch and admire your handy-work. Well that looks good, but it need MORE. So you give it another tiny nudge to the right. And on it goes, your eye adapting at every step.

Soon you’ve got colors not from this world, Yikes!

So here’s what I do.

Grab that saturation slider and give it a big shove to the right, right into “that hurts my eyes” territory. Then slowly bring it back until the image looks normal.

Works pretty much every time, giving you an image with vivid, vibrant colors, but not causing visual pain to your viewers.

Lastly, as a safety measure, just to make sure, I’ll walk away from the image. Letting it sit on the computer for a bit, often a few minutes is enough.

If when I come back to it I don’t think “what the hell was I thinking?” I’ll call it done.

*   *   *

Do you have any favorite fall foliage shooting tips that work for you? I’d love to hear them.

24 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturate

        1. No really, I’m like a drug dealer, give away a little for free, get them hooked, and then when they have to have it, can’t live without it, hit them hard with a bill 😛 (jk)

    1. Thank you Tina. That question is something I should have asked myself a time or two in the past. I do like to give the saturation a boost, and I’d like to think I recognize when I’ve gone overboard. But every once in a while one still escapes the asylum 🙂

  1. Excellent tips – thank you! I have a polarizer, but typically don’t use it. I will give it a go with your tips in mind, though! I also have noticed the red saturation on my Canon, but get lazy about checking the histogram 🙂

    1. Thanks! I had read about the reds over-saturation issue quite a while ago, and my experience says it’s true. My 40D did it, my 1D MkIIn did, it, my second 40D did it, and my current body, a 7D does it. The thing I live about my 7D is the live histogram during live-view. Now I have a pretty good idea if the reds might be blown out before I ever press the shutter.

      Oh, and you have a CPL but don’t use it, and too lazy to check the histogram? Tisk-tisk, someone is a very bad girl!

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