Photographing fall colors allows us some freedoms that any other time of year we wouldn't get away with (photos 1 and 2 in slide show). Still, employing some of the compositional techniques used in other successful photos can only help your foliage photography.
Many of the composition rules still apply such as the "Rule of Thirds", leading lines, "S" curves and using foreground frames. But, most of all eliminate any unnecessary distracting element before you release the shutter. Take your eye on a tour around the viewfinder just before you snap the shutter to see if everything included in the picture really needs to be there.
The "Rule of Thirds" (photo 3) suggests that the frame be divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Action should be placed at the junction of one of those thirds and horizons be placed on one of them. Remember not to be too rigid though and allow yourself some flexibility to experiment. There will be times when you need to just let it happen such as sunrise and sunsets (photo 4) bisecting the frame. High and low horizons have different effects. High ones yield a more terrestrial feel while low horizons (photo 5) produce a very open and atmospheric feel.
Leading Lines and "S" curves (photo 6) are visual helpers that guide the viewer's eye to the primary subject. A diagonal line is considered the motion line. Horizontals compositions are considered serene and calm with verticals looked upon as powerful and active. Experiment with all of these ideas and you will develop additional skills that will help you the rest of the year.
Foreground frames such as tree branches (photo 7) , arches and doorways actually frame the subject and helps the eye establish the boundaries and clarify the scene.
Perspective is the position of the photographer relative to the subject. Perspective is changed when the photographer moves position not by simply changing lens focal length (zooming). That only changes magnification. Perspective composition involves a foreground subject size and a background subject size. Wide-angle (photo 8) lenses tend to emphasize the foreground making the background smaller. Telephoto lenses (photo 9) emphasize the background by bring it closer and makes the foreground less important. Check out the perspective photos below to see the difference in background and foreground.
Professional photographers know the importance of bringing back images that stand out on the page. Looking for unique angles will help you tell the story by breaking out of that 5' 8" eye-level POV. The low POV looking up (photo 10) will show the subject differently just like remembering to look behind you for the other 50% of the scene. Climbing a nearby hill (photo 11) will produce an elevated perspective that many won't have. This is great for the wide expansive shot. Also, remember to include some verticals (photo 12) to your series of horizontal (photo 13) photos to add variety to the assignment.