You don’t have to head to a place that’s bursting with beautiful landscapes to shoot some autumn-inspired shots as your own garden can give you just as many interesting autumn subjects to photograph. An even better reason to stay close to home is if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse you only have to take a few steps to be back in the warmth, you have your kettle close to hand and you can even continue shooting some subjects from inside your house.
Some birds begin to migrate at this time of year which means you may have new species visiting your garden. For bird photography you need a telephoto zoom such as Tamron’s AF 70-300mm F/4-5,6 Di LD MACRO 1:2 or the SP AF 200-500mm F/5-6,3 Di LD [IF]. As you’re using longer lenses you’ll need a sturdy support as well as a head that’s strong enough to take the weight of your longer lens. A ball-head makes it easier to track your small subjects but it’s not essential you have one.
Birds are easily spooked so you need to keep still have if you can, be hidden. Try shooting from an open window from your house, set up in your shed or if you have one, use a hide. If you work from inside and are shooting through the glass rather than an open window, make sure your lens is as close to the glass as possible and turn your room lights off to minimise reflections. You also need to be in a position that’s quite close to where the birds will land as even though you’re using longer lenses, they are really tiny and can look lost among your background if you don’t get close enough.
Feeders will encourage birds to visit your garden and if you place them in front of branches you’ve positioned with photography in-mind, they’ll already be landing in the place you want them to before you head out with your camera. Try positioning your feeders with hedges behind them as they’re good natural-looking backgrounds. If you don’t have a hedge, use material to disguise a wall or fence.
Make sure you pay particular attention to the tips of feathers, particularly on the tails, as these can easily become out of focus when trying to get the right balance between a blurred background and sharp subject. You may need to switch to manual focus, so you can set the focus point more precisely. Light at this time of year can be low so be prepared to switch your ISO up and remember to use a high enough shutter speed to keep your subject sharp. Most small garden birds move quickly and tend to twitch and turn their heads frequently so you need a quick enough shutter speed to stop the movement becoming blurred.
If you have any damp, dark areas in your garden or have a compost bin, you’ll find fungi specimens are now springing up. You’ll find more whole specimens in the morning but as you’re in your garden it’s quite easy for you to pop out at any time in search of photography-worthy mushrooms. Also, unless you like twigs and dirt decorating your shot, you’ll probably need to do a little bit of gardening to tidy up your scene before you shoot.
As well as single specimens, capture mushrooms in an odd group which is more pleasing to the eye and adds interest to your shot
Contrast white mushrooms with backgrounds of moss and leaves
Blur backgrounds out of focus
Look under the mushroom for interesting textures
Light the underbelly by directing light into the scene with a reflector
If using wider apertures, check your shot as your subject can end up with parts that are out of focus due to the small distance you’re working at
Kids wrapped up in hats and coats, particularly when they’re throwing leaves around, scream autumn. Keep your shoot informal and try not to shoot too many posed shots. In fact if you’re photographing your own children playing around in your garden just leave them to it and shoot candids as they play.
If you don’t want the colours of the foliage take over the shot, longer focal lengths, particularly with a wide to moderate aperture, can help, blurring and giving your background a nice bokeh effect as well as flattering the features of who you’re photographing. You can use out of focus foliage as a frame too, adding a spot of colour to the foreground of your autumn portrait shot.
Even though early morning and later afternoon is a good time to shoot, autumn light tends to be lower all day so you can get away with shooting during the day if you need to.
Leaves / Trees
You can’t talk about photography in autumn without mentioning trees and leaves. How to photograph leaves during autumn is something we covered a few days a go and you can learn more about this subject here: Photographing Autumn Leaves Outside And Indoors.
If you have a few plants that give berries at this time of year, they should be ripe by now and ready to photograph. If they’re a dark colour, try underexposing your shot to deepen their shade and use a polarising filter to cut down on shine / reflections.