Fall Color Tip – Where’s The Light?

Fall color and early snow at North Lake, Inyo National Forest, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Fall color and early snow at North Lake, Inyo National Forest, California

Making great images of fall color obviously starts with the seasonal changing of the leaves. Where and how this happens is dependent upon elevation and temperature and no two years are ever the same. The higher mountains of the west begin in mid-September, eastern hardwoods in October, and the lower red-rock country of the southwest in early November. Once you’ve settled on a destination and found that great grove of trees the next step is to consider the light.

It might seem like the vibrant reds or yellows before you would be faithfully reproduced by your sensor no matter what time of day, but understanding the quality of the light can go along way towards guaranteeing your success. Using backlight or sidelight when the sun is low on the horizon and illuminates the leaves from behind creates a wonderful warm glow, especially when set against a dark background.

Softlight is another great light source (illustrated above) that occurs when the sky is overcast and acts like a giant studio softbox. Under these conditions, it doesn’t matter what time of day you’re shooting as the shadows are eliminated and the uniform light both reduces the contrast while intensifying the colors.

So when the scene presents itself, consider the light and don’t be too quick to trip the shutter. A slight change in position or a little patience could make the difference between a good image and a great one.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

The Wilderness Act

Autumn hues and fresh powder, John Muir Wilderness, California
Autumn hues and fresh powder, John Muir Wilderness, California

Fifty-six years ago on September 3rd, 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law preserving over 9 million acres of wilderness – a place where people could experience nature with minimal impact on the environment and wildlife. Since then Congress has added more than 100 million acres of wilderness area creating a natural legacy for future generations, and a sanctuary to recharge our creative and spiritual batteries apart from today’s fast-paced urban world.

The legislation established the National Wilderness Preservation System, which recognizes wilderness as “an area where the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Unlike the National Parks, there is no management plan for traffic flow, employee housing or curio shops because there is simply no need. It is truly wild – nature in all its unprocessed beauty.

In this sense the two compliment each other nicely. Where the National Parks serve to protect iconic landforms and historic sites that might otherwise be subject to erosion, vandalism or overuse, wilderness areas often lack the spectacular formations which draw the masses and are instantly recognizable, but provide instead a subtle beauty and remote quality that begs for exploration and contemplation.

Ansel Adams spent the better part of his life working to preserve wilderness through his photographs and tireless appeals to Congress, and his images continue to define the power that nature has in our lives. I feel fortunate to be able to share my own view of the natural world through photography, but more importantly I’m glad those who came before me had the foresight and courage to preserve these special places where we can find renewal and experience our planet in its original untouched form.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.”  – Charles A. Lindbergh


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved


Evening light and gondolas on the Grand Canal, Venice, Veneto, Italy
Evening light and gondolas on the Grand Canal, Venice, Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city afloat and as the title of Joseph Brodsky’s classic essay alludes, it is this watery foundation that is the heart of the city and leaves its mark on your soul. Around every corner your eyes are met with a rich palette of colors, and wandering through the maze of narrow stone passageways and arched bridges the sound of water lapping against stone is a constant reminder that the sea which brought life to this Renaissance town is slowly reclaiming it.

Founded in the 5th century as a defense from invaders, Venice was dredged out of a marshy lagoon and compasses 188 islands in the north Adriatic Sea. Its unique location which at first offered protection soon provided an even more valuable asset in access to the open sea, and by the 13th century Venice became a major maritime power.

During the Renaissance its wealth and power reigned supreme and it flourished as a center of art and culture that remains today. From Piazza San Marco to the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal, Venice is a vibrant blend of classic architecture and old-world artistry that appeals to the senses like no other city in the world.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved