This past fall, I found myself in this beautiful river valley just North of Ulsan, South Korea. This was probably the most beautiful spot for fall leaves in the area. I wanted to make the most of the location as I felt that it was perfect. As I looked around, I saw so many possibilities with just one small area.
I first went for the obvious “safe shots” which are the ones that people expect from a location like this. The wide shots showing the morning light and the falling leaves. Shots like these really are best to start off with as they get your head in the game. They get you into the “photography mode” and not thinking about anything else.
These shots give a while perspective on the area and what I am looking at. I am not doing anything too creative here, just making sure that I have the area covered. Think of these shots are your “first drafts” and then after, you can refine and revise your idea and move on to more creative shots.
This style of photography has a reputation of being eye-bleedingly bad. However, with new programs like Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019, you can actually achieve great results without sacrificing your eyes in the process. HDR works great in conditions like this as you can bring back some of the details in the shadow areas and keep the highlights in check. The saturation that is normally synonymous with HDR photos also works well in areas like this.
I chose to try and see what I could do with the power of Aurora HDR 2019. I have gotten out of HDR as I found different ways to edit and achieve the results that I am looking for. However, after playing around with Aurora HDR 2019, it got me right back into the game.
I also took this opportunity to test out a cheap 10-stop ND filter that I picked up off of Amazon. I wanted to see what kid of effect the long exposure would have on the seen. I really like the filter’s ability to smooth out the water and make it look a little more clean. This is also a filter that I don’t use all that often. I realized here that it was the perfect opportunity to see what it can do and if there was a way to work it into my usual workflow. This type of experimentation breaks you out of your usual patterns for taking pictures and can lead to some better images.
Shallow Depth of Field
Next, I brought out my trusty 50mm F1.4 to experiment with some images that have a shallow depth of field. These types of images are great when you want to guide the viewer’s eyes to certain details of your image. Shooting into the sun with all the beautiful leaves around also makes for a great use of the bokeh effect that these 50mm lenses are known for. Looking for the details in a scene also trains your photographic eye to see the potential of a spot, rather than just shooting the obvious snapshot type images.
There were a lot of potential subjects here. From leaves in the water to ones hanging on the branch. I felt that I could snap away here happily all day. This was place was exactly what I was looking for and what I wanted for fall photography.
Finally, I decided to play around with some cinemagraphs. Here again, I had to rethink the scene and figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to make myself the subject and use the water as the moving element. This is tricky to do when you are by yourself as you never really know where you are in the frame. It took some experimentation but I finally got what I wanted.
The bottomline here is that you can do a lot with a small scene. You just have to step back and figure out what you want to do or what you CAN do with the gear that you have. This is also great practice for learning about the gear that you might have picked up but are not really sure how to use. Before you roll your eyes, think about all the gear that you you bought thinking that you’d use but it still sits on the shelf. This is the perfect time to get more practice with that equipment.
Also note that places like this are not far flung “exotic” locations. I found this place when I pulled over to find a place to pee. This spot was right beside the road and a random outhouse. Thus, you don’t have to wait for a vacation to get the kinds of shots that you see on an Instagram “influencer’s” page. Just grab your gear and go.