In New England there is a very distinct time known as the “leaf peeping” season. This is when the foliage is at its peak and the landscape is full of reds, gold, and many brilliant oranges. This is also a time when dramatic skies can make the colors even more intense or remarkable, but this period tends to last only a matter or two or three weeks. By November most of the region is devoid of leaves, and full of the dull grays and browns that will not be replaced with green for almost six months.
What can a photographer do during the gloomiest parts of this season? How can you head outdoors and photograph blunted stalks of corn against the haunted and leafless woods? Actually, many photographers can find moments of intense “sweet light” during such a season, and make images that are both dramatic and quite inspiring.
What is sweet light? It is usually the hours of dusk and dawn when the lack of brilliant sun makes colors bolder and the overall setting much more photogenic. The midday sun tends to wash out color and cast harsh shadows which tend to be an unpleasant photographic environment. The duller weather months, however, are often overcast and mimic the conditions found in the hours of sweet light. This means that a photographer should be looking for spots of color in their duller surroundings because the conditions for capturing them are at optimal levels.
For example, although the frosts may have killed back all of the remaining green foliage, there will still be fields full of pumpkins and winter squashes. Their brilliant orange and mustard yellow colors will really “pop” in the overcast weather. This is also a time to photograph the gorgeous red barns of the region too.
Another subject that can really shine in between the end of autumn and the beginning of winter are the seasonal birds that seem to burst out of the trees and shrubs. For instance, a male cardinal against a backdrop of dark branches and leafless trees is a truly stirring sight.
There are some considerations to be made before heading out into a duller weather setting, however, and they usually include the intentions of the photographer, the environment, and the actual weather at the moment. The planning on the part of the photographer is crucial to success. It is not good to leave the situation entirely up to chance, and knowing where to go on the day in question is the only way to take a successful image. Scouting out those pumpkin patches or knowing where the frost is going to lie heavily on the long grass is vitally important to creating the best dull weather photographs.