This year (2022) in the Pacific Northwest, we had summer temperatures and clear skies up until, well, last night, late October. This type of irregular climate does not allow for trees to change their leaves from summer greens to autumn red, oranges and yellows, as they typically might. Our color display in the region is not as vibrant as you might find in New England (U.S.), nor does it last as long. But there are colorful scenes to be found. Here are some tips to help you be ready.
Be mindful that colorful leaves do not make compelling images JUST because they are colorful - creative compositions still need to be considered. Remember the three pillars of good composition basics: good subject, good light and good background.
Framing and White Balance
Here, the leaves are fully in the frame which is good. I used the stick to give the leaves a frame, but failed to notice that the bright stick leaves the frame on the right side. This both closes the frame, divides it, and leads the viewers eye out of the image.
By moving my camera slightly to the right, I was able to frame the leaves with the stick, while keeping the light colored stick within the image. This keeps the viewer from wandering away if they are following that sick, and opens up the image so there is flow all around. And, simply, it looks more intentional.
Look at this image, which is a slightly warmer, more yellow one. I used the "shade" white balance (WB) for this photograph. Now, compare it to the previous image, which was created with "cloudy" WB. The shade setting does create a more-red, red, but I like the previous version more because the use of "cloudy" WB. This gave the stick a slightly blue color, which adds some color balance to the image.
Composing with only a few trees
If you do not have a forest full, top-to-bottom, left-to-right, near-to-far, of fall colors - find ways to isolate colors and make them stand out. Make it look intentional. Here, a larch and a cottonwood(?) add just a little bit of color to the forest of evergreen trees.
Ignore that this composition is awful, and look at the subject of this lesson - polarizing filters. For the above image, no polarizing filter was used. Notice the light, bright spots, reflecting off of the upper surface of the leaves. This is light bouncing off of and being scattered, reducing the intensity of your colors.
Add a polarizing filter and watch your colors become richer and more full of life. If you take anything away from these lessons, it is use a polarizing filter. All of my filters are from the company Singh Ray - https://singh-ray.com/ , though there are now many great brands that offer polarizers.
I hope these brief lessons help you to elevate your fall photographs to works of art. The season passes quickly, we must be ready. Good luck!