All photos/art by Jeff Folger
To compose the perfect fall foliage picture, says Jeff Folger, start with what’s known in photography as the “rule of thirds.” Mentally divide the viewfinder into three sections both horizontally and vertically, and align your subject along those lines or at one of the four points where the lines intersect.
Another good way to draw attention to your subject is to use a “leading line” — such as a road, fence, or tree branch — that draws the viewer’s eye into and through the picture.
For the best shots, less is often more. “Sometimes it’s better to shoot one leaf than a whole hillside,” says Folger. Other favorite techniques are to shoot around a pond, where the reflection of the leaves in the water can double the color in a shot; or to stand right at the bottom of a tree and shoot straight up through the canopy, so that the dark lines of the branches break up the color like panes of stained glass. Unlike most subjects, backlighting works well with foliage, causing leaves to glow brim behind.
The biggest question when shooting fall color is: to Photoshop or not to Photoshop. Folger usually does touch up photos slightly to match his memory of the image he saw with is eyes. Our brains can act as a natural filter, balancing out lights and darks in a way the camera’s lens doesn’t.
On the other hand, he steers sway from over-saturating colors to “improve” on nature’s performance. “I see pictures with colors that Mother Nature just didn’t create,” says Folger. “Just because you can take that slide for saturation all the way to the right, that doesn’t mean you should.”