One advantage of a later start to autumn is that the onset and gradual zenith of fall colors has become delayed by a couple of weeks. This allows even a busy urban dweller such as myself time to pack a bag of gear and get out into the country for some good old fashioned leaf peeping.
Finding Fall Foliage
If like me you need to travel to find landscapes abundant in brilliant autumn foliage, the following websites are great reference points for planning a fall photo getaway:
National fall colors map for 2014, published by the U.S. Forest Service
Regional and sub-regional fall colors map, published by Weather.com
Of course, there is also a beauty in capturing colorful leaf fall without traveling far afield. With many deciduous trees growing in non-native environments, somewhere in your city, neighborhood, or even backyard there is more than likely a tree sporting fall colors that with the right lighting, angle, or lens could turn into an interesting and convenient local photo shoot.
Photo by Tom Kredo, 2014
What makes fall colors so spectacular?
In apparent response to changing light, lower ambient temperatures, and changed energy storage patterns in preparation for winter, deciduous trees produce compounds called anthocyanins. These chemicals pigment leaves with shades of red, and purple. The orange-yellow colors visible with leaf change are the product of carotenoids, another pigment which is always present in the leaf, but only becomes apparent as the chlorophyll responsible for the “leafy green” colors of spring and summer declines in proportion.
Oddly enough fall color display isn’t chemically related to the subsequent leaf fall deciduous trees undergo, but according to leading theories is instead thought to either offer a protective warning to insects and animals that share the tree’s ecosystem that winter is coming, or to facilitate nutrient re-absorption following leaf fall, or both. The latter theory, incidentally, is known as the “photoprotective theory.” Naturally this makes it our favorite, because whatever the chemistry behind it, photographing fall colors is one of our favorite times of the year, and something worth protecting indeed.