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Back Road Routes, Blue Ridge Parkway, Helpful Tips, Photograph This!

Tips for Photographing Autumn Colors

Happy October, everyone! The leaves are already starting to color the hills here in the High Country with gorgeous autumn shades. To help us all get on the right track with our photography of the fall leaves, noted High Country photographer Victor Ellison of Appalachian Prints has kindly shared some great tips, suitable for any age and photography skill level, along with examples below of his stunning work using these tips he’s learned over the years.

Are the hills are alive with color, but your photos aren’t living up to expectations? Here’s a few tips to help improve your fall photography.

  1. Up, Down, and All Around – Even the greatest photographer can suffer from tunnel vision. Leaves on the ground can be as beautiful as those that are still hanging on. Keep your head on a swivel. Just watch out for those tree roots that are waiting to trip you up!
  1. Sunrises, Sunsets, and Cloudy Days – Spend time around an experienced landscape photographer, you’re bound to hear about the magic hour once or twice (or a billion times!). This special time occurs twice a day – 30 minutes before and after sunrise, 30 minutes before and after sunset. The magic hour generally provides optimal lighting for landscape photography. But my favorite time to shoot fall foliage is on cloudy, overcast days. The shadows are soft and the color is amplified. As a bonus, you’re not confined to an hour, so no rush!
  1. Gear, Fear, and Self Doubt – Fall is like the Super Bowl for serious amateur and professional photographers. They’ve trained all year, waiting patiently for those leaves to change. Now, it’s game time! Anywhere there is color, you’re bound to find someone walking around with a camera store on their back. Don’t let them intimidate you. Photography is a mental game. If you doubt yourself, you won’t make beautiful photos – period! Plus, photography should be FUN whether you’re on a professional level or not.

If you’re one of those photographers lugging around a fifty pound pack, I feel your pain – literally! One day, try packing light. I’ve found that my best photos are born out of having little to work with. It’s long been the secret of artists that overcoming limitations breeds creativity. Give it a shot. Your back will appreciate it!

Don’t be afraid to try something new. I’ve seen many times a line of serious photographers setup all photographing the exact same thing, when the real beauty was directly behind them. Don’t be afraid to be different! Yes, there are times when those photographers have it right, but just as often they’re stuck in a rut. Be unique!

  1. One Filter to Rule Them All – A circular polarizer is king. This is a round filter that attaches to the end of your lens. Give it a twist, and it’ll filter light in a spectacular way. One of the many uses of a CP is to eliminate glare. After a rain is a great time to capture fall color. But the glare on the wet leaves can be extremely distracting. Give your CP a twist, and watch the glare disappear. You can also peak beneath the surface of the water in rivers and lakes! Likewise, give your CP another twist, and you’ve just intensified the reflection rather than diminishing it. Get creative.

But that’s not all! A CP will make color pop. You’ll never look at a blue sky and a red tree the same way again! When buying a CP filter, be sure to purchase one that fits your lens. You can usually find this information written on the lens itself. Don’t have a fancy-schmancy camera that accepts filters? No worries! Hold the filter up to your naked eye, twist until you get the desired effect, then position in front of your camera. Even works with cell phones!

And here is a slideshow of some breathtaking examples of Victor’s art, as an example of what you can achieve if you follow these tips and look for beauty all around you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript. would like to thank Victor for taking the time to share this excellent advice with us and our readers! Be sure to check out more of Victor’s amazing photography on his website HERE and on his Facebook page.

There is beautiful color blossoming into view just about everywhere you look up here, no matter where in the High Country you go, so be sure you always have your camera handy! Not sure where to go? Check out our list of Fall Foliage Hot Spots! If you plan to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway or other scenic byways, it is always wise to keep the travel tips at this link in mind during high traffic seasons like this.

Now grab the camera, get out there, and enjoy all that the High Country has to show you in this gorgeous season!

All text copyright 2014 Victor Ellison and Cassandra Hartley; photos copyright 2012-2014 Victor Ellison Fine Art Photography. No portion of this article is to be copied, saved, or otherwise distributed without express written consent. Sharing is encouraged using the designated social media sharing buttons at the bottom of this article. Authors received no compensation other than a margarita in exchange for this article.


About Cassandra

Doing my best to get out West as fast as I can with the love of my life!



  1. Pingback: Hiking Trails: ROAN MOUNTAIN BALDS, Carvers Gap, NC/TN | Blue Ridge NC Guide - January 16, 2015

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All text and photos belong exclusively to Blue Ridge NC Guide, copyright January 2011 to present. No portions of the text and no photos may be copied without express written consent. Sharing is encouraged using the Share Buttons at the bottom of each article.
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