26 Nov 2015


Life on board
Tips for flawless shots, even aboard our camper van.

During periods of transition such as autumn, days of clear air alternate with those of hazy and dreamlike atmospheres. If we add to this the phenomenon of spontaneous autumn foliage, when the leaves on the trees are tinged in yellow, red, and with all those warm shades that only the autumn can offer, then the atmosphere is further charged with special charm, that deserves to be captured by our camera.

The phenomenon of autumn foliage starts at the end of September, in the northern areas and at higher altitudes, to extend till the end of October and the first half of November in the milder areas. The colours that the vegetation takes on before the leaves fall is typical of the deciduous broadleaf plants (beech, chestnut, maple, etc.) that start to lose nutrients and chlorophyll as a result of the reduction in hours of sunlight and the temperatures becoming gradually cooler and cooler. This allows the other pigments in the leaves, which are usually concealed by the green (xanthophyll, anthocyane, carotene), to be seen and combine with each other to create the various autumnal shades.

Travelling in a camper van through tree-lined roads, parks and mountains becomes a real pleasure for the eyes, and it’s impossible to resist the temptation to take a few photographs. But what is the best way to do so?

The treetops are particularly photogenic and can be captured using natural lighting that filters from behind the photographer. However, the leaves have a characteristic to be exploited: they are semi-transparent and if photographed with the sun behind them, they "light up". Try shots that are either wholly backlit or partially, with the sun to the side. On the other hand, if we want to highlight the texture of an autumn leaf it is necessary to fix it on a transparent support and photograph it with backlighting, filling the whole frame with the leaf.

Lastly, the leaves can be a subject for compositions and textures, always photographing them with a close-up shot. Whatever your shooting technique, remember that it just takes a gust of wind to move the leaves. If using a professional camera, we need to use fast times, or we can deliberately choose a slow time to give a sense of motion to the falling leaves.

With digital, whether it’s an image editing program, an app or the filters available on most smart phones, we can accentuate some of the colour and saturation effects, but it’s best to avoid unnatural effects: the best ones are those that can’t be seen.

The phenomenon of autumn foliage can be seen almost everywhere and, even in town, the warm tones of this season can create a striking contrast with the cold colours of some roads and urban areas.

On the other hand, we could try make a real itinerary to chase the autumn colours aboard our camper van. In some places the natural event turns into a huge show, with hundreds of fans, so much so that in the United States, for example, each year in autumn an army of travellers sets off, consulting special maps to know where and when to be in a given forest (those of New England are the most popular) to enjoy the best colours. Some ideas?

In Italy: Val di Non in Trentino; Valle d’Aosta and Monte Bianco, Umbria and Tuscany, Sila National Park in Calabria. And let’s not forget the Lake District National Park in the United Kingdom. Also the forests of Minnesota are not to be missed, but also cities such as Boston, New York and Tokyo offer spectacular and unforgettable views.
And you? Are you ready to take advantage of all this beauty?
After all it doesn’t take much: boots, jacket, camera and... our beloved camper van.

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