How to capture fall’s vibrant colours on camera

Photo by Aivoges/

When it comes to shooting landscapes in Canada, there’s no better season than fall. As the leaves change colour, forests light up to create a rainbow of reds, yellows, and oranges that are incredibly inspiring to the outdoor photographer. Here’s how to take advantage of this spectacular season on camera.

Light trumps all

As always, when it comes to outdoor photography, the best times to shoot are sunrise and sunset. Setting up 45 minutes before either of these times will give you the best shots. Thankfully, dawn is not obscenely early this time of year. Plus, if you’re around lakes or rivers, the season’s changing temperatures will make beautiful mists in the morning that will help you create even more amazing images. If you’re hiking to your location, remember to bring a flashlight to get in before dawn or out after dusk.

Timing is everything

If you’re out too early in the season, you won’t get the most colour for your buck, but if you’re too late, the bare trees will kill the overall effect. One wind storm or heavy rain will knock a lot of leaves off the trees, so when you notice the colours peaking, don’t delay. Fall colours peak at different times of the year depending on how far north you are. If you’re in Ontario, you can find out when they will spike in your region through the Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report.

Use a polarizing filter

If you don’t already own a polarizing filter, get one. Fall is the perfect time to experiment with a polarizer, since it can increase the contrast in your shot and gives the colours a deeper saturation.

Try a tripod

When shooting at dusk or dawn, using a tripod will give you a huge advantage. Also try a cable release or your camera’s self-timing feature to create successful long exposures during these low-light conditions. These features will also allow moving elements such as streams or waterfalls to blur.

Get up close

If you do happen to miss the peak of the season, there is still plenty of opportunity to get good up-close shots. Once the leaves fall from the trees, they will cover the forest floor, drift down rivers, and float in ponds. Dew drops on leaves are especially great subject matter. And because overcast skies are common in the fall, shooting close-ups during this time is a great alternative to wide-open landscapes.

Know where to go

If you’re taking pictures in autumn, Algonquin Provincial Park is sure to be a hit. The forests of Algonquin explode with colour this time of year and when you combine that with the its endless number of lakes, rivers, and scenic vistas, it’s every outdoor photographer’s dream location.

If you have a favourite spot in the country, most tourism district websites will outline fall driving tours you can take as well as peak times to see the leaves.