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Getting good fall colors photos in any weather

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It's fall foliage season, and leaves are changing colors before disappearing for the winter. While the colors are looking fairly good overall, I'm hearing from photographers around the state that they may not be as good as in previous years, especially when compared to 2016 — which was particularly stellar. Locally, though, the colors are looking pretty good.

While the persistent rain of the past week made it difficult to get decent "big picture" photos of fall colors, it wasn't enough to stow the camera away and give up. In fact, it's the best weather for nice tight close ups of the fall colors. The overcast conditions evens out the light, getting rid of harsh shadows; bright colors seem to pop against muted backgrounds, and the rain water itself on the leaves adds an extra dimension to photos.
These yellow leaves really "pop" against the deep shadows and even lighting from overcast skies. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • These yellow leaves really "pop" against the deep shadows and even lighting from overcast skies.

The diffused lighting also makes it easier to shoot flowing creeks and waterfalls. By choosing a small lens aperture (the higher the number, the smaller the aperture), you can get a slower shutter speed which creates the pleasing, cottony effect on the water, without the bright highlights seen during sunny days.

The overcast conditions made for even lighting, and the muted light made it easy to reduce the shutter speed to get the cottony effect on the water. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The overcast conditions made for even lighting, and the muted light made it easy to reduce the shutter speed to get the cottony effect on the water.

Don't forget, too, that aspen gold isn't the only fall color we see in Colorado. There are reds, blues and purples, but since they're not the predominant colors, you have to get in close to find them. This means getting out of the car, or wandering into the woods a bit.

You may not see all the fall colors from the road, or when concentrating on the "big view". Overcast, rainy weather is great for capturing these colors. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • You may not see all the fall colors from the road, or when concentrating on the "big view". Overcast, rainy weather is great for capturing these colors.

You'll need to be prepared when shooting in these conditions, not only for yourself, but also for your camera. Wear the appropriate rainwear, waterproof or water resistant footwear, and dress in layers. And don't forget to protect your camera and lens. Most DSLR's and compact cameras can resist light rain and mist, but it's better to keep your camera dry. A gallon-sized zip-lock bag is big enough to hold most equipment, and an Op-Tech RainSleeve or similar will keep your camera dry while you're actually using it. A tripod is indispensable, and a absolute requirement when shooting long exposures. If shooting with a cell phone, try to keep water off of the touch screen — raindrops and finger touches are all the same to your phone and you can inadvertently take a picture or change a setting when you get the screen wet.

Don't let inclement weather keep you from taking good pictures.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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