When Autumn and Your Lens Meet

"Autumn colors"
Autumn hues create a wonderful scene across north Georgia, USA

It surely is the favorite time of year for many. Those long hot, humid summer days wane as Fall turns its page on the calendar. The refreshing drier air moves in and all is so much more comfortable for man and beast. As a professional photographer, the season offers so much more than dry air and clearer skies. With the changing colors and shorter days magic or “golden hour” is that much more intense. I am referring to those two times of the day when the sun is either low in the morning sky or late in the afternoon as it approaches the western horizon. The shadows are long and the golden hues of light are the best for photography of nature, portraits (with diffusion) or anything your mind’s eye can imagine. When you are ready for it, the light becomes magic!

Using the Light Nature Gives Us     

"golden hour" "Atlanta GA"
A suburb of Atlanta, GA Northlake offers some excellent golden hour photo opportunities

The best light comes, no doubt, from our nearest star, our sun. The photo above was taken in the morning as the long shadows stretched to the northwest. Notice the back-lit leaves. The lower sun angle of the morning is accentuating those yellow and gold hues. Only nature can provide such a colorful display. I was particularly happy with the dark, silhouette-like tree trunks in the shot as they added that “Halloweeny” edge to the image. As I recall, I shot this image using my cell phone that morning and posted it onto my insta-gram page. Many of my followers were amazed at the colors and their vibrancy! The blurriness at the edges I added using an app and it creates that dreamy soft effect.

"Magic Hour" "Northlake Atlanta GA"
Sunlit Maple trees reflecting on Northlake. Atlanta, GA

Reflections from Northlake add an impressionistic quality to this photo, taken at magic hour.  When using the natural light of the setting sun do your best to notice what is around you. If you have a body of water, use it! The  image at right was taken in late afternoon with the sun illuminating the colorful trees and the stillness of the water blurred that color in the reflection! Amazing! Notice that I didn’t include much sky in the frame. “How come?”, you may be asking. Well, look at it. It was milky with rather unimpressive high clouds so I just didn’t include much it for that reason. When composing your shots-study what is and is not in frame before committing to hitting that shutter.

"Acer palmatum" "Japanese maple"
Colorful Japanese maple (Acer Palmatum) leaves in mid-day shade, Atlanta, GA

A great way to imitate magic hour is to fudge it a little with the sunlight. What does that mean? Well, consider taking a shot like this one closer to the middle of the day. This one, to the left,  was taken around 1:30 in the afternoon with only a slight bit of sunlight peeking through the right side of the frame. The reflective nature of the Japanese Maple leaves gives a less vibrant image but one worthy of shooting for the golden hues of autumn. Adding more interest, I purposely put the center of focus off-center and to the left. Did your eye go directly there?

Now, is there any post processing involved in shooting at magic hour?   Yes, if you so choose. If you choose to, be careful not to overdo it. It is pretty easy to get carried away. Be aware of what your colors look like as you shoot them. See what is there and if you need to adjust them a little, feel free. It is always best to let nature provide the show and leave it at that. So go out and capture some of your best Autumn images in the northern hemisphere this Fall. Share those images and lets keep the conversation going. If you have any questions of comments feel free to leave them here-we read every one of them!

"Photographer Federico Vasquez"
Federico Vasquez shooting with Canon 60D at Northlake, Atlanta, GA

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