HOW TO: Fall Color Abstracts

By now, you have probably noticed that I love to photograph the splendor of the fall season. Often I will gravitate to the traditional scenics, trees and the bounty of the harvest season. Sometimes, a diversion from the obvious seasonal topics is necessary. Probably because I am in the mood for something a little different.

For me, a good diversion is to play around with various photographic techniques, camera settings and lenses. For example, I will adjust the white balance to fluorescent or cloudy when shooting in full sun or at dusk, just to see the effect it may have on color rendition.

Another technique is to zoom in or out on your subject with a zoom lens while tripping the shutter. This makes the object appear to be streaking towards you. This is relatively easy to do…it’s just a timing thing…and your subject can be anything you want.

I used this technique for the image in this post by using my zoom lens, cable release and the camera mounted on a tripod. You can try the same technique. It’s fun.

Set your camera to the lowest ISO that you have available. Using slow shutter speeds is the easiest way to master this technique. Adjust your camera for a proper exposure of 1/30th of a second or slower. By closing down the aperture to F11 or smaller you should end up with a slow enough shutter speed. Focus on your subject with the lens zoomed out. While zooming in on your subject, trip the shutter with the cable release. It may take several tries before you get a result you like, but just keep playing until you get there. Then try another subject and see what kind of effect you can produce.

It doesn’t matter what the subject is because you never know what the effect will be. That’s the beauty of digital photography…you can see the results right away. And if the results aren’t what you were looking for, just delete the ones that didn’t work and try again. Play around with color, shapes and textures. Betcha you won’t be able to stop yourself!

  1. October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    This is wonderful! Thank you for all these technical details, I noted. I want to try tomorrow, Have a nice weekend, dear David, with my love, nia

    • October 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Nia, It sure is fun to play! Have a great weekend too!

  2. October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Cool! and not a bit creepy 😉 Keeping notes.

    • October 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Thanks T, LOL, nothing staring back at me in this one!

  3. thebigbookofdating
    October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm


    • October 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Thanks, I had taken several photos with this technique over the last couple of weeks…it was hard to choose which one to post!

  4. Steve
    October 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Wonderful image, and great explaination of the process! I’ve played with this before too and it’s a lot of fun! You’re right, it’s hard to stop! Cheers!

    • October 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Thanks Steve, I certainly have added to my abstracts folder lately…I can’t stop cause it is just too much fun playing. In the old days, waiting for the slides to come back was a pain. Did it work ? Overexposed? etc. And the cost to boot!

  5. October 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Very cool picture!

    • October 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Thanks Victoria, it’s a lot of fun just to play like this because you never know how it will turn out.

  6. October 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I like that. I love how the colors are all you see.

    • October 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

      Thanks Rumpy, I have several versions of this scene, in some the leaves are more visible and some where it is just streaks of color. I thought this one was the best of the bunch.

  7. October 29, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Great tutorial on this, David! And I love the image. 🙂

    • October 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks Katie, isn’t just fun to just go out and play?? Glad you liked it!

  8. October 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    That’s a new effect for me. I’m intrigued and am anxious to give it a try. Thanks for the tip!

    • October 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Hey you bet Fergiemoto! It’s fun and I bet you will come up with some good stuff!!

  9. October 30, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Very nice abstract! It’s good to try new things isn’t it?!

    • November 2, 2011 at 9:43 am

      It sure is fun to just go out and play!!

  10. October 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Cool photo! I like the colours. There will be a few autumn shots coming from me over the next few weeks. Scotland was amazing, all dressed in green, yellow, red and brown. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time, but I still got a few good shots 🙂

    • November 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

      Thanks Anne, I can’t wait to see your photos!!

  11. Kristina
    October 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    wow, this is great!!! 😀

    • November 2, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Thanks Kristina! There were quite few from this series…it was hard to pick just one!

  12. November 9, 2011 at 9:38 am

    This is cool, David! I have not tried it, but after reading your tutorial I am intrigued!

  13. November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks Karen, it really is fun and easy to do. The best part is, every photo will be different! And any object/subject will probably work!
    Time to play!

  14. November 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Brilliant work! I have to try this technique – thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    • November 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks Graham, it sure is fun to just go out and play with the camera. You never know what the results will be!! Thanks for stopping by!

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