If you ask most photographers to previsualize their dreams for a fall foliage photo outing, you’d be very likely to hear of entire hillsides bursting into crimson and golden tones in unison, as great early or late-day directional sunlight infused the scene with depth, dimension and a magical sense of the season with a sky filled with perfect cotton candy clouds.
And every now and again, with the right combination of planning and luck, those storybook conditions may be encountered and captured. But then again, there’s also the reality that trees turn at different times, that the light that’s magical one moment is flat and dull the next, and that you’ve really got be somewhere else and if you don’t make a photo now, it won’t be made at all.
And in these situations, rather than the typical ultrawide lens for sweeping landscapes, the perfect lens for creating a feel of Fall by focusing on small seasonal details is a super-fast zoom lens like the brand-new Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art lens. The close focusing and shallow depth of field offer a great way to really explore the nuances of small bunches of leaves and other typical autumnal symbols in a way that’s fresh and new. Instead of the unlimited depth of field so typical of ultrawide landscapes, this lens allows for getting up close and personal with leaves in mid-transformation, complemented by beautiful background blur.
I’m itching and waiting for peak color here at my home base in Central Jersey, and when it hits, I’ll be revisiting both some old favorites and new spots I’ve been scouting to capture those sweeping vistas with a variety of Sigma lenses, but until then, it’s been amazing exploring the start of the leaf season through this incredibly sharp F1.8 zoom lens, looking for small bursts of color backlit or crosslit by the sun. And unlike the early and late-day directional light on far-off subjects; it’s easy enough to simply move about until you align a particular patch of photogenic leaves with the high midday sun.
You’ll have to experiment with exposures to find the perfect numbers to make the leaves pop while retaining some color in the background, be it the clear blue sky, or a gorgeously defocused blur of another bunch of leaves.
Exploring the world through this lens on the hunt for varying colors and textures, and levels sharpness and blur can create images that are at once new, and yet instantly recognizable. Close-up focusing on a pumpkin, for example, gives a shallow slice of sharpness, and lovely focus fall-off in a composition that’s pure seasonal color.
There are many shades and tones in the palette of autumn, from multi-hued corn, to decorative gourds, mums, and of course, the whole spectrum of changing leaves. And adding the intrigue of razor-thin focus possible with the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A allows for creative, colorful compositions any time of day.