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Shooting autumn's colours and the early winter landscapes

Posted: Monday 7th November 2016 by DevonWildlifeTrust

Fingle Glen, Devon by Nigel HicksFingle Glen, Devon by Nigel Hicks

Top landscape photographer and friend of Devon Wildlife Trust Nigel Hicks gives his top tips on capturing autumn in all its colourful glory.

Autumn is of course nature's final great show before things shut down for the cold, dark winter months. It's a brief, but glorious spell of colour across our woodlands; time to grab the camera and get some shots.

Even after the leaves have fallen, don't put the camera away, for the frosts, mists and low sun can give some dramatic scenes, particularly along Devon's rivers and on the open moors, but also in the woodlands where the skeletal trees can create some wonderful shapes. 

For autumn leaves we're looking in woodlands primarily for the golden yellows of beech and birch trees, while in parks and gardens these can also be joined by maples, cherry trees and the occasional ginkgo. So, when out in the woods, seek out those areas rich in beech and birch trees; unfortunately the predominant oaks generally don't create great colours, though when they do it can be a lovely russet.

Nigel Hicks

Capturing autumn with your camera

Capturing it all is of course a lot easier said than done. Aim to shoot images that contain a single strong subject that dominates the image frame, and in which everything else either just fades from view or in some way helps to support and direct attention to the subject. Great subjects include close-ups of golden leaves, the background out of focus, or wide views of beech trees arching out across a river, the backdrop a simple one of flowing water.

Lighting is a vital key to success. When in woodland, the simplest light is on a flat, grey day, ensuring you have no deep dark shadows or bright white highlights. In parkland or when on open moorland, some good sunlight puts spark and a real glow into the vegetation, especially when the leaves are backlit by a low sun.

Don't stop shooting

Even when all the leaves have fallen don't stop shooting. A day of stormy sunlight out on the open moors can generate some striking views. The trick here is to capture simple elements within the landscape that create a subject for the eye to latch onto, speaking volumes about the ruggedness and wildness of the open moor.

And then there are autumn fogs, the ultimate simplifier, reducing everything to soft outlines, where details are muted, and shape becomes everything. Especially when lit by just a little sunlight burning through, it's a great time to photograph such subjects as skeletal tree outlines, especially of those trees standing alone, free from woodland clutter.

This is a beautiful time of year for landscape photography in Devon. Grab a camera and get shooting - but thoughtfully and with careful judgement of what makes a great composition.

Get you copy of Nigel's latest book...

The photographs used to illustrate this blog all appear in Nigel Hick's latest book, Wild Southwest, about the landscapes and wildlife of South West England, published this October.

You can find out more about Nigel's Wild Southwest, and buy online here

Wild Southwest is also available at all Waterstones stores in the South West and online at Amazon.

Read DevonWildlifeTrust's latest blog entries.


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