Autumn kaleidoscope, northern Utah, USA

Autumn kaleidoscope, northern Utah. The upper-right portion of this photograph didn’t go into the shade until dusk, so I concentrated on photographing other things for awhile (like the next two images below). But I thought this was worth coming back to, as I loved the mix of colors and patterns. 180mm, 8 seconds at f/11, ISO 100.

As you can probably tell from my last post, Claudia and I had a great time photographing the maples in northern Utah. We even found some spots where the maples were mixed with aspens! Although 99% of the aspens in the area were still green at that time, I loved the juxtaposition of those greens against the reds and oranges of the maples – along with the white aspen trunks.

It’s great to get clouds, as we did for a couple of the photographs in that previous post from Utah. But we don’t have any control over the weather, so we have to adapt to the conditions. It’s hard to make big, sweeping landscape scenes work without clouds to add interest to the sky, so on sunny days I usually narrow my focus and concentrate on smaller scenes. And there were plenty of those in northern Utah, with the maples, aspens, and cottonwoods creating wonderful patterns, textures, and colors.

With fall color I’m usually looking for either backlight or soft light (shade or overcast). Backlight shining through colorful leaves makes them glow, while soft light accentuates color contrasts, and often imparts a beautiful, soft, luminous quality to a scene. All the photographs here were made early or late in the day, either in the shade or with low-angle backlight.

— Michael Frye

Aspens and maples, northern Utah, USA

Aspens and maples, northern Utah. I loved the mix of colors – red, orange, green and white – and the repeating vertical lines of the aspen trunks helped to create a strong repeating pattern. 98mm, 0.7 seconds at f/11, ISO 100.

Aspens and maples, northern Utah, USA

Aspens and maples, northern Utah. More patterns and colors, with similar hues to the last photo. 126mm, 1/4 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

Maples and cottonwoods, Wasatch Mountains, UT, USA

Maples and cottonwoods, Wasatch Mountains, Utah. The sun had just crested a ridge and backlit these trees. The cottonwood on the left provided a focal point, and the ridges added repeating diagonal lines. 135mm, 1/30 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

Bigtooth maple leaves, Utah, USA

Bigtooth maple leaves, Utah. This trailside mix of colors caught my eye. I raised the tripod high and pointed the camera almost straight down to capture this pattern. 35mm, 1/3 sec. at f/16, ISO 100.

Backlit maples, Wasatch Mountains, UT, USA

Backlit maples, Wasatch Mountains, Utah. The foreground maple had lost most of its leaves, exposing the seeds – the maple “whirlybirds” – at the top of the tree. The camera was pointed almost directly toward the sun to show the backlit glow. 118mm, 1/15 sec. at f/16, ISO 100.

Related Posts: A Slight Detour; In Praise of Soft Light; The Beauty of Backlight

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.