There are many wonderful locations to find fall colors in the Sierra Nevada, especially on the eastern side near Bishop. But one of my favorite places to photograph fall foliage is in Hope Valley, which is south of Lake Tahoe near the intersection of Highways 88 and 89.
Check out Bee reporter Matt Kawahara’s story on the preceding pages to get an idea of what makes Hope Valley special. What Kawahara captures in words, I hopefully show in photos on these pages the beauty of Hope Valley in the fall.
The best time of the year for fall foliage is usually toward the end of September through mid-October. Of course, it all depends on the weather. When it gets cold, the leaves begin to dry and turn to color from their normal green.
Because it’s colder at higher altitudes, the first signs of fall foliage will be spotted in the mountains before coming to the valley. Check online for “Sierra Nevada fall foliage” and you’ll find sites and blogs that track when leaves begin to turn and expected peak fall colors for specific locations.
Once you know where and when you want to go, keep a few things in mind to bring back great photographs of fall foliage:
• Light is the most important aspect along with composition. Early mornings and late afternoons are best, when the sun is at its lowest angle.
• Overcast skies and clouds can also help enhance your photographs, adding soft, even light to the overall mood.
• Composing your pictures using the rule of thirds is a helpful technique; i.e., try not to capture your subject or focal point in the center of the frame each time.
• Don’t miss the small stuff. Bright-colored leaves are always good, but don’t overlook the other close-up details like moss and mushrooms.
• Always carry a good tripod. The lighter the better when hiking up a hill or mountain. Carbon fiber is the best for reduced weight, especially if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
• Using a tripod is especially important when photographing streams, rivers and creeks. A slow shutter speed will provide a soft, blurred look. If you want your entire frame in focus, a tripod is a must, especially when using slow shutter speeds.
• Don’t forget that lakes and ponds offer beautiful mirror reflections on calm days. A polarizing filter can help eliminate reflections on water surfaces and can also enhance the contrast when photographing clouds.