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Glowing Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon, Eastern Sierra

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 8 October 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Tomorrow morning I wrap up a week and a half of back-to-back workshops in the Eastern Sierra. I had two fantastic groups, and photography conditions to match. But anyway....

I love color, and jump at every opportunity to photograph it. After a disappointing color season last year, this year's yellows, oranges, and reds stretched the bounds of credibility. (To anyone who believes this color is manipulated in the computer, I suggest that you need to get out more in the fall.)

I photographed these leaves a few days ago in Bishop Creek Canyon. Capturing electric fall color like this requires knowing what to look for, and how to photograph it. I start with backlit leaves because the lit side (the side receiving direct light) of aspen leaves can be quite dull, while the side opposite the lit side lights up like it's been plugged in. So, twisting an extension tube on my 70-200 lens, I scanned the grove for backlit leaves with a bit of red or orange, finally landing on this pair that I could isolate against the colorful background.

Metering fall leaves can be tricky too. After setting my aperture and ISO, in manual mode I spot meter on the brightest part of the brightest leaf and adjust my shutter speed until the leaf is underexposed by about a stop (this means setting my exposure to a stop darker than it should be, not a stop below middle tone). Underexposure saturates the color and helps save the red channel, which is easily clipped with bright yellow subjects--if you're not sure, check your camera's RGB histogram and dial down the exposure until all three channels terminate before reaching the right side.

Another essential fall color tool is a polarizer, tremendously overrated for its ability to darken the sky, but tremendously underrated for its ability to cut glare that robs foliage of color. (I have a polarizer on each of my lenses.) Be aware that when using polarizer, if you don't rotate it (to the darkest point) with each composition you risk increasing the glare on your subject. (There are times when you'll want to increase the reflection with the polarizer, but that's a topic for another day.)

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

DULCIE from Danville, CA, United States

Beautiful intense colors...another of those images of yours that fills my heart to the brim.

8 Oct 2010 5:36am

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

much more than 10 stars...My eyes are happy, thank you!!!

8 Oct 2010 6:26am

Florence from Paris, France

Colors like honey. This is so bright and luminous. I really love this. Great catch.

8 Oct 2010 9:00am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

These are so lovely Gary! I always like your aspen leaves :)

8 Oct 2010 12:15pm

Judy aka L@dybug from Brooksville, Florida, United States

Less is more ... very beautiful.

8 Oct 2010 1:07pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Hi Gary - Thank you very much for the great text here. I am always so appreciative of your easy flowing instructions. I am als glad that you finally had/have (or seem to) some really decent color this year. We had awesome color a few years back and this year is shaping up to be a not-so-good year. I like to use an enhancing olarizer - is that ok in situations like fall color? All the best Gary!

8 Oct 2010 11:52pm

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

These colors are fantastic Gary... A real happy maker ! Most of the time fall colors are making me a little bit sad, even if they are very beautiful but here it's the opposite :) So nice ! Have a wonderful weekend.

9 Oct 2010 10:05am

Julie from Easton, United States

What amazing colors! I just wish the same was happening over on this side of the country this year but I really think it isn't going to happen. So nicely taken!

9 Oct 2010 10:29pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb rich and intense colour that emphasises the feeling of Autumn in the air! i like the duality of the composition with the second leave shadowing the main one perfectly behind! superb work!

10 Oct 2010 7:46am

Fred from United States

another crappy photo like this and your off my facebook friend list

11 Oct 2010 4:49pm

@Fred: :D

Eileen from West Point, United States

We are practically neighbors! Eastern Sierra in the fall is my favorite. After reading this, I definitely need to take one of your classes! Love everything you photograph.

11 Oct 2010 11:01pm

Wild Mustang Photography from Carlisle, United States

Beautiful shot! Amazing colors! Well done!!!

14 Oct 2010 4:23am

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

Beautiful and glowing.. I like your tip about saturation/under-exposure. I do that and I guess.. I thought it a 'cheat' of sorts in trying to wring out color. I'm glad to know I am in good company.

15 Oct 2010 4:43pm

@Dutçh: Thanks, Kirsten. My feeling is that it's only a cheat when you do it in post-processing. It's impossible to capture the world the way the eye sees it (for starters there's that whole missing dimension thing), so why not leverage the camera's unique vision to create something artistic? Photographers who strive for images that are "exactly the way I saw it" are both disingenuous and doomed to a prosaic portfolio.

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

simply beautiful!

15 Oct 2010 6:26pm

Jen from United States

Simple, elegant, classic... I love this. It's just stunning!

22 Oct 2010 5:45pm

Skyriani from Nelson, New Zealand

love the glow and tones

24 Oct 2010 9:02pm

Marie from FRESNES, France

superbe !

27 Oct 2010 7:49pm

Tinx from Kuressaare, Estonia

Simple but very beautiful!

14 Mar 2011 2:58pm

Mohsen from Karaj, Iran

lovely! :)

5 Mar 2013 5:47am