Autumn's magical golden colors

by Norbert Maier

October and November are the best months for early morning shots of mist and backlit trees in the Isar valley, Germany. At that time there is an enchanted atmosphere, as if you walked right into a fairytale.
I live south of Munich with my family. My house is about five minutes away from Isar-Hochufer (Isar High Banks). At the edge of the banks sloping straight down, a forest of ancient beech trees stretches for several miles. Even in the cold months of winter, when other deciduous trees have lost all their leaves, the beech trees are still colored red and brown, displaying a wonderful contrast to the gray winter. 
 
 
 
Sony Alpha 77  .  Sony 16-50mm  .  35mmmm  .  1/5ss  .  f/11  .  ISO50
 

In October and November, the mist dissolves the contours of the trees and the light of the rising sun is magical. You can play with different depths of the mist and thus change the effect of the scenery in your image. Mist is priceless when shooting with backlight. With the right density of the mist, you will get a nice bloom effect and clearly see the beautiful rays of the sun. In post-processing you can make this effect even stronger, by dodging and burning, so that each single ray is even more visible.

"The same rule applies as when photographing snow: you should overexpose the photo slightly by ½ to 1 full stop."

It is rather easy to photograph a scene like this if you observe some basic principles. First of all, low contrast scenes will make it difficult for your autofocus, so you should focus manually. The scene also appears brighter in mist, which can cause a problem for the light meter in your camera. There is a high amount of water particles in the air, acting like a huge diffusion screen. The same rule applies as when photographing snow: you should overexpose the photo slightly by ½ to 1 full stop. The mist should be bright, but the main subject of the image should not be overexposed. To be on the safe side, use bracketing and later choose the image with the exposure that turned out best.

Most of the time, I make at least two different exposures for each picture. The first one should have optimal exposure for the bright mist in the upper section of the image. The second one should be exposed for the darker ground. In Photoshop, I merge the two photos into a single image with a higher dynamics. This usually works better for me than using a graduated ND filter. However, for this photo I used a soft Hitech ND 0.6 filter.

"Sometimes it is a good idea to breathe on the lens and quickly take several shots for an additional mist effect."

A tripod is a prerequisite for this kind of shot. Because the ground is soft in the woods, a solid tripod in combination with a remote control is essential. You should also activate the mirror lock-up and use a lens hood. If you use an ND filter, you should be aware that it could get wet with mist. However, this can also be used as an artistic effect. Sometimes it is a good idea to breathe on the lens and quickly take several shots for an additional mist effect.
 
POST PROCESSING
When you look at your images on your computer screen, they are likely to be a little too blue and have low contrast. This should be adjusted, but be careful to not increase the contrast too much or you will destroy the character of the image. If the image is converted to monochrome, you can play around with different settings for shadows and highlights until you have an interesting result.
 
TIPS
1) A morning in autumn can be very cold, so warm clothing is a good idea.

2) Changing the white balance can enhance the effect that we aim for here. In this image, I shifted the tones toward orange to increase the intensity of the sunrays.

3) Not every type of mist is useful. If the mist is too dense, it is normally not useful for images like these because it makes the scenery sad and lifeless. 

4) Use your gut instinct, and always keep in mind that not every shot will be a hit. 

5) You should get up very early to make sure you do not miss the best light. 

6) Pay attention to the constantly changing light — the wind makes conditions change quickly.
 
BIOGRAPHY
My dog and I try to spend every free minute outdoors, and the camera is almost always with us. This is the reason nature and landscapes are my favorite subjects. To me there is nothing better in the world than being outside early in the morning. I am very happy that 1x gives me the opportunity to show my images to a wide audience, and that I am able to enjoy so many great images from other photographers.
 

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