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Autumn Woodlands

Strid Wood in Autumn

As the leaves start to turn now is the time to turn our attention to our local woods and plan some autumn woodlands photography!

Autumn is my favourite time of year for landscape photography as the woodlands take on the spectacular colours of the season. So, I generally like to have a couple of woodland shoot ideas in mind which I can plan around the weather forecast as the leaves reach their peak.

Skipton Woods in Autumn
Fallen leaves in Skipton Woods in Autumn

Ideally I like a bright overcast day with low wind to get the best from the woodlands. These perfect still days can be few and far between in autumn, however! So, in the absence of ideal conditions I’d be happy with a showery or damp day – just as long as it’s not too sunny as harsh sunshine makes photographing the autumn colours very tricky.

With an overcast sky it’s also essential to take along a sturdy tripod. Under the canopy of colourful autumn leaves the light levels can be very low so exposure times are likely to get quite lengthy.

Skrikes Wood near Pateley Bridge in Autumn
Mossy boulders in Skrikes Wood near Pateley Bridge in Autumn

Swirling autumn leaves

Swirling Leaves in the River Wharfe, Strid Wood
Swirling Leaves in the River Wharfe, Strid Wood

A wind free day is usually best, but a light breeze can sometimes work, adding a touch of movement to your images. In my Swirling Leaves image I used a long eight second exposure to record the movement of the leaves in the eddies in the river. Fortunately it was an ideal autumn woodland photography day with diffused light and low wind on this occasion! The still conditions ensured that the foliage remained sharp – save for a slight hint of movement at the very end of the twigs.

This is one of my favourite autumnal woodland images though it took a while to get it right. The water was lapping slowly backwards and forwards in a little inlet off the River Wharfe. Seeing the tracks of the leaves wasn’t easy so it took a while to time the exposure with the movement of the river. So a bit of experimentation with different exposure times was the order of the day!

Another approach to photographing fallen leaves moving in the water would be to zoom in on the patterns alone. This can produce some very rewarding completely abstract images such as the River Nidd image below.

Leaf Patterns on the River Nidd in Autumn
Leaf Patterns on the River Nidd in Autumn

Autumn woodlands and water

As well as autumn leaves in moving water, fast-flowing rivers and waterfalls can be effective in autumn woodland images too. Moving water also works well in the diffused light of an overcast day, so the two go hand-in-hand. This naturally gives slightly longer exposure times which creates dramatic, dynamic images.

The Strid on the River Wharfe in Autumn
The Strid on the River Wharfe in Autumn

I was particularly lucky with the autumn image of The Strid as a few days of low wind led to a nice covering of fallen leaves on the foreground rocks. Normally the wind whips up and blows them away! In contrast, the sheltered conditions and still water if Guisecliff Tarn ensures that the fallen oak leaves add some interest to the bank and the surface of the water.

Autumn Oak Tree at Guisecliff Tarn
Autumn Oak Tree at Guisecliff Tarn

Find your local autumn woodlands

If you’d like to track down your nearest woodlands for an autumn shoot, the Woodland Trust Find A Wood web page is a great place to start! It provides a map of woods near your location – not just Woodland Trust owned ones.

Our autumn woodlands workshop takes place at Bolton Abbey in early November. We’ve got one space left at the time of writing should you like to join us!

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