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by Phil Ball

Q. I have been out lately taking photos of some trees that have started to turn Fall yellow but I have not been happy with the color because the trees simply do not stand out. The colorful foliage just doesn't look interesting. What am I doing wrong?

A. Outdoor photographers have an axiom they live by which is that the best images are found early or late in the day and midday light should be avoided. This is true for most outdoor photos, but it is not true for Fall foliage. The problem is that the golden light of the early or late hours simply does not work with the oranges and yellows of Autumn color. The golden trees do not stand out when the light is golden colored. The colors of Fall foliage are an exception to this axiom.

If you photograph a golden tree in midday, the tree's golden color stands out in contrast with the relative blueness of late morning or early afternoon and so it is revealed in all its glory instead of blending into the golden light. Photographing fall foliage in midday is the best way to emphasize your trees.

Another way to emphasize those trees is to photograph in sunlight rather than on an overcast day. The blue sky makes for wonderful photos because blue makes the yellow/orange leaves stand out. A polarizing filter may help since it can greatly reduce the glare of sunlight reflecting off the leaves. To use it, simply rotate it while looking through it until the leaf colors look bright with far fewer glaring reflections. A polarizing filter is the one filter that gives effects that cannot be duplicated in a photo editing computer program.

Because digital cameras autofocus, you must use a circular polarizer (as opposed to a plain polarizer). If your camera has a method of fastening the filter to the lens, use it for convenience. Otherwise, after you rotate the filter to find the best angle, you can simply hold it over the end of your lens making sure to maintain the angle. Have fun.

Published: Courier 10/13/13 - Page 3C