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Some tips on how to capture fall colors with your camera

The brilliant colors of fall inspire us to try to capture some of these beautiful images with our camera. But too often, the great scene we saw doesn't translate into a great photo.

The brilliant colors of fall inspire us to try to capture some of these beautiful images with our camera. But too often, the great scene we saw doesn't translate into a great photo.

But with a little extra thought and care, the casual photographers can catch some of the magic of fall in their images.

Here are some tips from Minnesota Explorer photographer Paul Stafford. You have seen Paul's fabulous photo work on commercials, in magazines and on billboards in and around Minnesota.

"Photos of fall landscapes need something significant to catch the eye, such as a figure, a prominent physical feature, a condition of light or a splash of color," Stafford said. "Good landscape images often require two or more visits to find the right viewpoint and the right time of day to photograph the scene. Try some of these ideas for composition and lighting."

  • Show depth in landscapes by putting the elements in the foreground, middle distance and background. The eye travels to a light spot in a picture, so try to place one deep in your composition.
  • Frame your subject with branches or other elements to call attention to it.
  • To avoid a static, symmetrical look, set up off-balanced compsitions. Place the focus of interest away from the center of the photograph.
  • Shoot early and late in the day. Early morning and late afternoon light turns a golden color, bathing everything it strikes in a warm glow.
  • Try using a polarizing filter, which deepens blue skies and enriches fall colors by removing glare and reflections in shiny leaves.

Minnesota's fall color reports are gathered from information provided by color observers in state parks.
Because the colorful fall show is the result of more than leaf color, these reports include some extras like information about the changing fall colors among the native grasses and wildflowers, notes on birds, butterflies and other wildlife that are migrating or preparing for winter. There is also a listing of the berries, nuts and fruits that are ripe for harvesting.


Typically, colors peak along the Canadian border in mid to late September. Peak colors come to the northern third of Minnesota the last week in September or early October. The following weekend should bring peak colors in central Minnesota including the Twin Cities area. The southern and southeastern part of the state should have good color through the third week in October.

"The fall color season always brings visitors out to enjoy the scenic beauty of Minnesota state parks," said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR Division of Parks and Recreation. "Since all 72 state parks and recreation areas are open to the public year round, people have the opportunity for recreation and relaxation in all seasons.

Nelson cites another major factor that helps boost visitation - fewer bugs and mosquitoes. "Campers especially appreciate the lower bug levels in fall," Nelson said. "If the string of good weather continues, I expect our campgrounds will continue to see good business this fall."

Nelson also recommends a midweek visit to state parks this fall. "On weekends, our parks are usually pretty busy in the fall," Nelson said. "If you want to spend a more quiet time in the park, come during the week if you can. During the week, camping is more available and you likely will not need a reservation."

You can follow the progress of the fall colors in Minnesota be checking the state tourism website at www.exploreminnesota.com

Johnson, who works with the Minnesota Office of Tourism

in St. Paul, can be reached at (651) 297-3488

or via e-mail at curt.johnson@state.mn.us

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