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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | October 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Capturing the Colors of Fall
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN
October 16, 2009

Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer who lives in Puerto Vallarta part time. For more photo tips click HERE. To view more of his work, visit
Hola and greetings to Puerto Vallarta and to friends where ever you are!

I have been having more fun this summer, in fact more than any one person should. Iím averaging a couple thousand images a week and have been taking Photoshop classes for three hours a week. I have always enjoyed Photoshop and its ability to turn a good photographer in to a great one, but the things a person can do with this tool should be illegal (I think Iíve said that before).

I can see my abilities of a photographer growing every month not only by taking classes and doing on-line tutorials but taking more and more time to spend just playing with my camera and reading not only about my cameras but about photography in general.

With todayís cameras on the market, most anyone with $500 can be a good photographer. But to be a great photographer takes time, knowledge and more time. I hope through these articles you are able to take just one thing and use it to help you on the road to becoming a great photographer.

The past three weeks I have been driving and hiking while enjoying the changing of the fall colors in Colorado and Utah. It has not been the best year for colors but just being at 12,000 feet in elevation with a view of 70 miles, is just plain COOL!

Coming into the fall season, I really felt like I had a handle on my photography. I have been learning more and more and even doing some instruction but I am still learning from the mountains and the trees on how to photograph them. No, Iím not totally crazy, but if you listen to them you will learn how to photograph them.

Today letís talk about photographing trees. I know what youíre thinking, itís not a big deal to stand back, put the tree in your view finder and push the button. Wrong! I have spent the past three weeks photographing the beautiful Colorado Aspen trees.

If you donít have Aspenís in your area - no problem, as the same principles here will apply to any tree. Stop, look and listen to the tree, find its beauty, uniqueness, its trunk, its branches, the knots, its markings. Remember, just like us every tree is unique and beautiful.

Photographing trees is one of my favorite fall shoots. I can spend an hour (or more) in a grove of Aspens. I will usually start low and shoot the growth around the trees, wild ferns in the fall and wild flowers in the spring and summer. I will shoot the base of the tree with the growth and then move my way up the tree. Itís beautiful.

I like to shoot in wide angle and in most cases will use my 10-20MM on one of my trusty Canons. I will shoot with my camera on the forest floor, moving up and then out from the tree, and then all around the tree. If I want to get real crazy, I will climb up a bit and shoot along the trunk of the tree down to the ground.

Thereís lots of fun stuff mixed in the leaves and grasses. I like to shoot in AV or aperture priority as I want to control my depth of field. If Iím laying on the ground on a beautiful sunny day, I will stop my F stops down to F18-22. I continue to look at my light meter and histogram and I will tinker with this until I get the sky the color I want.

Since my primary focus is on the color of the sky, the tree and the leaves will take second stage, but the tree and its leaves always fall into the correct color scheme. Having the sky over or under exposed can totally blow your shot.

Now Iím going to lie under or next to the tree and shot the entire length of the tree. Iím looking for the barest part of the tree before the leaves start but also keeping an eye on the sun and my exposure. Now set your camera on or next to the tree and shoot looking up, shoot along the tree and follow it up to the sky.

Your focus is on a big player now, so letís try our focus in several different places. First, using your spot focus tool (on all DSLR cameras), spot focus two or three feet up the tree and shoot another 10-12 feet up the tree. Then another at the top of the tree; yup, you get three different and unique images. Now add some more fun and play with your depth of field or F stops and if you are on the shady side of the tree you might need to increase your ISO (starting at 400 with no higher than 640).

Move around the tree, shoot different angles, use different focus lengths and F stops; youíre creating one of a kind images that no one in the world has or can even recreate. Move out a few feet, 2 to 10 feet and lie on your back and do the same thing. What youíre creating is beautiful.

Watch your F stops and your sky as a beautiful blue sky makes a wonderful back drop. Donít over expose it and keep it blue, or on a cloudy day, keeps the clouds clear and sharp. Keep your ISO on the lower side as well as your F stop (F16-f29). Play with it and remember to watch and read your histograms. They will tell you if you are over exposing or not. Keep changing your focus and try using manual focus (if you have good eye sight).

Have you ever shot a panorama of a tree at 10-20 feet away? Maybe at 4-6 foot away? Now youíre having fun. If you want to learn how, continue reading.

Rule 1, you must have a tripod! Sometimes I donít listen to my own advice and they turn out great but as a general rule, tripods are a MUST for panoramas. Letís start shooting low and work up the tree. Set your settings and do a few test shots to check them.

Now hereís a critical part, Rule 2, flip your camera to M manual focus! Do not leave it on auto-focus as you will not be able to merge your images. You need to make your focus on the lower part of the tree or where your focal point is going to be, and start shooting slowly moving up the tree and overlapping your images by 30-40 percent.

A real tall tree will take 5-6 images. Shooting panoramas is a lesson or two on its own but try one or two this fall or winter. Palm trees are fun and make very beautiful panoramas. There are several free downloads on the Internet for free panorama software to download so you can manage your panoramas.

Spending time in a grove of Aspens, Maples or Banana Palms is all about being creative and creating one of a kind image. Everyone has images of trees in their portfolio so be creative and lay on your back, if youíre brave climb the tree and shoot down the trunk. All trees are beautiful and you can create some great images. Using an evening sunset shot on a palm tree can create some great photography.

Donít forget the leaves. Shoot them the same way, one at a time or as a bunch, from the bottom up, top down, side to side, get creative. F stops are your best friend when shooting trees and foliage. Remember guys, F stop is your depth of field, do you want the whole forest or other trees in your image? Do you want just a leaf with no background? The choice is yours and you are the artist. The tree is your subject, listen to the tree and remember there are no rules!

Donít be afraid to adjust your ISO up or down. On days when there is a little breeze, this can be fun. Adjusting your ISO can cause a little leaf blur and it looks kind of cool on a small F-stop and a low shutter speed. If the blur is not your thing flip over to TV or shutter priority and make sure your shutter is at 400 and above, the blur is gone.

Iím not a big filter person. However, on occasion I will use a filter. If by reading this article you get motivated and start shooting some fun tree images, try adding a filter here and there, reds, greens, look online for some good tutorials on filters.

Until next time, F8 and be there! Happy fall!

Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

Click HERE for more Photo Tips from Larry Bennett.

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