Each season has its highlights as far as photography is concerned, but autumn does perhaps offer the photographer more colourful choices of subject than any other time of year. Whether you are into landscape photography, macro work or wildlife portraiture it’s a fun time to be out and about.
For me, when the colours start to change in the leaves as temperatures drop, the urge to leave the warmth of my home office, camera in hand, becomes strong and I don’t always have to go far. In a few weeks’ time, the richly coloured berries of Cotoneaster and Pyracantha in the garden will attract a variety of birds, but now they make a nice backdrop for some macro photography.
This shot of a Garden Spider’s Web has Pyracantha berries in the background. The droplets of water left by the misty early November morning give detail to the shape of the web. If there is a lack of ‘misty morning’, why not use a trigger spray bottle for the same effect, but don’t go mad, it is someone’s home after all!
Staying with the theme of macro photography, it’s a good time to hunt for fungi. Often when I photograph birds I try to get down to the bird’s eye level and it’s also very much the best approach when photographing mushrooms, so don’t be afraid to do a little rolling around on the woodland floor.
The shot below was taken using my Canon 100mm f2.8 lens, using a small aperture to increase the depth of field on the image. I was able to do this with the help of flash, which gave a little extra mystique to the final image.
One of my favourite places to visit at this time of year is the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The autumn colour is always magical and lends itself perfectly to photographing a particular non-native bird that has made the Cannop ponds area of the forest its home.
A native species of Eastern Asia, the Mandarin Duck escaped from wildfowl collections some years ago now and has done well as a breeding bird in the British Isles. Cannop has a couple of large pools, which hold a variety of common duck species including Mallard and Tufted Duck. However, at this time of year with the warm colours reflecting in the water around them and similar tones in their plumage, the Mandarins make a great subject.
Of course plenty of other birds can be seen around the forest but, with such a large area to cover, it’s tricky to know where to go to get close enough for photography. One place I use on occasion is a car park near the Speech House, where the small birds are fed regularly.
Common woodland species can be seen at close quarters, as well as the odd scarcity like Marsh Tit and, using the car as a hide, you can keep warm and comfortable with your lunch close at hand.
You may want to reposition some foliage to make some attractive perches for your subjects. Taking secateurs with you is a good idea and perhaps some sturdy bulldog clips or cable ties to secure your props. I try to use fallen wood where possible, try not to damage foliage unnecessarily and always take my rubbish with me of course.
The image of the Blue Tit below was taken on a twig which I snipped off a fallen branch that I found near the car park and attached to the fence close to the bird table.
My last tip is never leave your props for another photographer to use, the last thing you want is to see next year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awarded to an image on your perch!!
I hope that my images have inspired you to get out there and see the stunning autumn colours for yourself. It won’t be long before they’re gone and you’ll have to wait till next year!
Midlands based Ashley enjoys sharing his life-long passion for nature by giving informative & entertaining talks as well as writing his own photography and wildlife blog. Having started his own wildlife & photography tour-leading business, Experience Nature Ltd., he now leads regular trips to The Gambia & the Spanish Pyrenees, with other tours coming soon. As a full time professional photographer & top birder, Ashley also offers his expertise through UK based photography workshops. He tweets at @AshleyJFGrove.