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Fall is full of photographic opportunities and perhaps the most colourful time of year. Vibrant hues of gold, orange, red, and yellow complimented by blue sky – does it get any better?  The perfect time to grab your camera gear and head out to capture great fall photographs. 

The colours inspire us all, although it can be a little overwhelming for the new photographer. I hear a lot of the same questions from guests on my photo tours:  Where should I go?  What time of day is best? What should I photograph?  What camera gear should I use? 

Photography is a form of art. A very personal practice. So answers to these questions embrace equal parts inspiration, creativity and technical elements. 

Where to go?

You won’t have to go far to find an abundance of fall colours in and around St. John’s.  A stroll around your neighbourhood, a walk in your favourite park, or a hike along the coast will provide plenty of photo ops.  Some of my favourite areas include Quidi Vidi Village, the walking trails of Signal Hill, Rennies River and Pippy Park. For the more adventurous, the East Coast Hiking Trail is wonderful.

What time of day is best?

As a general rule, best light of day for landscape photography is early morning or late in the day, when the sun is closet to the horizon. You may have heard it called the ‘Golden Hour of Light’ because of the warm golden colour the sun produces during these times of day. 

Of course, rules for creativity can be broken.  Why limit yourself to select an hour or two a day.  Perhaps the only time available is during your lunch hour in the middle of the day. Make the most of the weather and light conditions whenever you have free time. Instead of trying to capture an epic wide angle landscape, focus on the smaller image.  If the sun is high in the sky, photograph some backlit leaves. Or capture an abstract photo by purposefully moving your camera during a long exposure.

And don’t put your camera away on a cloudy, overcast or foggy day. The soft natural light that’s produced during these weather conditions provide the perfect opportunity to photograph close-up or even macro images. 

What should I photograph?

Nature is putting on an incredible display so let the colours inspire you and be your guide. Look for complimentary colours … orange/blue, red/green, yellow/purple. These colour combinations vibrate and create colour contrast when placed together, thus attracting attention.  Bonus points if you can find architectural structures that feature complimentary colours to natural surroundings.

Photograph what catches your eye.  If something makes you stop and look – take the photo.  But don’t stop at that first capture.  Does it look better if you move left or right; get higher or low to the ground. Changing your perspective just a little can sometimes mean the difference between a snapshot and a great shot. 

Once your creative juices are flowing – challenge yourself with an assignment. Pick a colour and only photograph images that contain that colour. Red for example. The small splash of colour from the red jacket creates an element of excitement amongst the yellow and orange leaves which portray a sense of optimism and happiness. 

An unexpected capture using the colour the red could be a stack of firewood surrounded by red bricks and wall in sample below.  Of course the firewood pile would represent the changing seasons and the colour red would suggest a sense of energy. The possibilities for a fall colour self-assignment are endless. Here are a few ideas: 

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what you photograph. If something makes you stop and press the shutter button, ultimately, that’s what matters most.  Your image and your vision.

What camera equipment should I use?

Probably the most controversial and highly debated question in the photography world. Short answer is, it doesn’t matter.  If you’re just starting out in photography, use the camera you have. It could be your smartphone, a point-and-shoot, a mirrorless or a DSLR camera. 

In fact, newer generation smartphones have incredible camera technology.  Download a free processing app like Snapseed and you’re an instant mobile photographer. One of the biggest benefits of mobile photography is the convenience – your camera is with you at all times.   

However, if you have a desire to develop your skills in the traditional craft of photography, a mirrorless or DSLR will open up new options.  The ability to use a wide variety of lenses and external lens filters will take your photographs to another level. 

Circular Polarizer

When it comes to landscape photography, external lens filters will really help elevate your photography.  If I found myself atop Signal Hill and could use just only filter, I would choose the Circular Polarizer because it reduces glare and reflections and helps enhance colours. It’s most commonly used to deepen blue skies but it also eliminates glare on leaves and flowers and saturates wet foliage.

Grad ND (graduated neutral density)

Another great filter for landscape photography would be a Grad ND.  These filters are dark at the top and clear at the bottom helping to balance the amount of light in a scene, most often used during sunrise or sunset photos.  The grad ND can also be used to create drama or atmosphere in a cloudy sky. The example below used both a circular polarizer and grad ND.

ND Filter

Think of the ND filter as a pair of sunglasses for your camera. It reduces the amount of light entering the lens and therefore enables longer exposure times, even on bright sunny days.   This would be a good choice when you want to create a silky smooth look on water.  Certainly, a sturdy tripod will be necessary with long exposure times.


Among TripAdvisor’s top 10 Things to Do in St. John’s. Experience our rugged coastline and capture striking images under the guidance of pro-photographer, Maurice Fitzgerald. Improve your creative and technical skills and learn more about the features of your camera (DSLR, point-and-shoot, smart phone). Tours are customized, based on where you want to go, what you want to photograph, and what you want to learn. Many prefer off-the-beaten-path locations they’d likely not find on their own. You can continue to follow Maurice at Far East Photography here: Instagram, FacebookTwitter

Published: October 26, 2020