I’m afraid to say it (having just got back from my summer holiday in sunny Suffolk) but the nights seem to be drawing in a bit. Fortunately the weather is still fairly warm so we may have a few more summery days to look forward to in September, but there are definite signs that autumn is approaching. This is, of course, great news for the landscape photographer and as the days get shorter and cooler it’s time for us to keep a keen eye on our local woodlands looking forward to a display of autumn colour.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of places to get out and about and shoot a bit of autumn colour here in Yorkshire. One of my favourites is Strid Wood at Bolton Abbey, which is the location of our main autumn landscape photography workshop in early November. It never fails to please with easily accessible woodland along the banks of the River Wharfe providing a variety of colourful trees so no matter how early or late the autumn is there are generally a few trees which are at their peak on an autumn visit. Other great Yorkshire locations for autumn colour include Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, Thorp Perrow near Bedale and Hackfall Woods near Ripon. But one of the best things is just to explore your local woods and get a few subjects in mind that you can return to easily when the colours look to be at their best.
With that in mind, I usually explore the Nidd Gorge near Knaresborough at least once each autumn, or just the magnificent trees along Long Walk by the River Nidd which can be viewed easily from the opposite bank of the river. With such rich subject matter on hand it’s just a case of waiting for the colours to hit their peak and hoping for a day with the right sort of light. This is, of course, the tricky bit. Quite often in autumn the weather seems to lurch from blustery sunny days to heavy rain without much in between. So when that ideal autumnal day with little or no wind and a nice overcast sky giving soft diffused light arrives it’s time to grab the camera gear and head for the woods!
With these conditions, making exposures should be fairly straightforward, provided you’ve got a good sturdy tripod with you, as you’ll be stopping down for maximum depth of field in most cases and those exposure times could get mighty long, which is another good reason for picking a nice still day – a bit of movement in the end of a few twigs can add a bit of movement to the image, but if the trees are bending in a gale the lengthy shutter speeds are a bit of a problem!
If you’ve got the right sort of lighting conditions for autumn foliage then moving water images will be on the cards too. So if your woodland has a beck or river running through it, so much the better. A few fallen leaves will keep the autumn interest in the image. Carpets of fallen leaves alongside the water can also make great subjects, and look out for floating fallen leaves and leaves following the current in the water which can produce abstract patterns with the inevitable lengthy shutter speeds.
Whilst deciduous woodland featuring our favourite autumn trees such as oak, beech and sycamore may produce the best colours, don’t discount woodland dotted with pine trees. Pine trunks often have an interesting lilac hue which is especially noticeable in good diffused light. Groups of parallel vertical tree trunks also make great subjects for intentional camera movement images, where the camera is panned vertically quite quickly with a slowish shutter speed to give an abstract result.
So, wherever you are, seek out you local woods, keep an eye on the colour and wait for that perfect autumnal day to get out a create some great images. Have fun!
If you’d like to join us for some autumn photography, take a look at our Bolton Abbey and Strid Wood Workshop.