Fall Leaves and Filters

Backlit Smoky Mountain Ridges

It’s fall here in my hemisphere, so it’s the perfect time to use filters. At this time of year I pack my kit with polarizers, and ND (neutral density) filters. Additionally I also add a graduated neutral density (grad ND) filter. And new to my kit this fall is my didymium filter. This is sometimes referred to as a red color intensifier, or a color enhancer, and it’s affects on fall leaves is sublime.


These filters are great to use in all photography in general, and help make blue skies bluer, and puffy clouds puffier. When it comes to fall foliage, a polarizer reduces shine on leaves, especially wet leaves. 

Mingus Creek, Great Smoky Mntns National Park

ND Filters

Neutral density filters help me with reducing the amount of light that reaches my camera’s sensor. Because of this reduced light, a longer exposure is required. I created my photo “Mingus Creek” using a longer exposure and ND filter. The bright fall colors provide a nice contrast and dynamic element to the moving, blurred creek water. I used a three stop filter for this shot, since the creek was already mostly shaded, and my shutter was set at 1.5 seconds. I also used a tripod for this long exposure shot, since it’s impossible for me to hold perfectly still with an open shutter for that long.

Cades Cove Methodist Church

ND Grad Filter

I use an ND Grad (graduated) filter when the sky is brighter than the ground. If I tried to meter the exposure for the ground, then the sky would be overexposed. Then, if I tried to meter for the sky, the ground becomes underexposed. A graduated filter is designed so that everything is correctly exposed, to balance the ground or landscape light and the sky. The problem with using these filters is getting the graduation line placed in the correct position. It’s important not to place it to low or too high, while trying to align it to the lighting in a scene.

A Smoky Mountain Lake

Didymium Filter

My didmyium filter is my secret weapon with autumn colors. I use it to enhance and intensify the reds hues in the changing leaves. The effect it has on fall foliage is outstanding! All the warm hues become accentuated, while the greens and blues remain unchanged. This filter is also known in some circles as a color intensifier.

So basically, that’s some of my fall foliage secrets, that and finding inspirational landscapes. When purchasing filters, I recommend buying quality glass. Spend as much as your budget can bear, because lower quality glass will show lesser results in your photographs, one way or another.

There’s still opportunities for fall foliage photographs happening around. Don’t miss out on the pizzazz of autumn colors. The above filters will help capitalize on the show that nature puts on with the deep hues, and tones!

Light and Love, Leslie



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