Seven Local Pro Photographers Share Their Top Three Foliage Tips

The Mount Washington Valley and the White Mountains of New Hampshire offer, arguably, some of the most scenic fall foliage photography opportunities in New England, if not North America. Whether you live in the region full- or part-time, or are making the trip to the Valley for the first time, the mountains, lakes, and rivers of the region provide us with a photographic palette just waiting to be captured.

Regardless of the type of camera you have, there are plenty of ways to capture great photographs. Particularly during the autumn, being more aware of how you compose your photographs can help turn a good photo into a great one. Whether you’re using your smartphone or a full-bodied DSLR, knowing what to look for and what to do when you find it are key factors in boosting the WOW factor of your shots.

We invited seven local photographers from around the Valley to give us their best tips and share their (secret) favorite drives with us. Follow along the next few pages and we guarantee that your next outing will be a better one. We want to see how you do with these tips, so remember to share your work on our social media channels above!

 

Joe Viger

Joe Viger / Joe Viger Photography

 

TOP 3 tips

1. Take the picture! We have a camera all the time in the form of a cell phone. When you see a great scene, get out there and take the photograph! Chances are the weather and light will change before you can come back again. And we’re all in a hurry, but it only takes a fraction of a second to take a photo.

2. Don’t fear the weather. Many of my best foliage photos—correction: best photos of any type—were made when it wasn’t a bluebird, beautiful day. Fog, clouds, and darker skies can add drama and interest. Filtered sunlight, and even some rain, can make those fall colors really pop!

3. Details, details, details. We all love a grand landscape photograph, and when you see that autumn color stretching out at a favorite viewpoint, that’s our first thought. But fall is a time of fantastic details: leaves on a stonewall, colorful reflections in a stream, or pumpkins against the weathered barn boards. Don’t forget to zoom with your feet; get close to these details and make some photos.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

My favorite fall drive is, hands down, Route 113 through Evans Notch. There’s less traffic, a fantastic mix of scenery, and it has an intimate feeling. If I have the time, I’ll make a day of it by heading to Bethel, then north though Grafton Notch to Errol, and back south on Route 16 along the Androscoggin River through Berlin and Pinkham Notch.

Leslie Brienza Photography

​Leslie Brienza | Leslie Brienza Photography

 

TOP 3 tips

1. Photograph during early non-peak. Sometimes the best photo opportunities are at non-peak times. Early peak rewards us with pops of dramatic, vibrant, and fresh-looking color that stands out among the green. Photographing prior to peak will also capture sugar maples as either yellow or bright orange before the leaves turn to a vivid red at peak.

2. Seek out pops of color and compose an image around that area. Look for contrast, colors, and textures and compose the landscape image in a way that draws the viewer in. In this image, the fiery orange color of a sugar maple against the back of the barn at the Thompson House Eatery caught my attention. I composed the image with the sugar maple as the focal point while keeping the feel of a landscape image.

3. Photograph under a cloudy, diffused sky. Photographing fall foliage in bright sun will wash out fall colors, whereas a diffused light will bring out and enhance the striking palette of colors. For more vivid colors, forego the blue sky to get more drama, or if your only opportunity is on a sunny day, try for early in the morning.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

The small, charming village of Jackson, NH is a scenic drive any time of year, but especially in the fall. On this drive, you will discover an abundance of stunning foliage and landscape photo opportunities all packed into a picturesque and historic 8 miles. You will see two covered bridges, waterfalls, old New England barns, an 1800s church, and sweeping views of the Valley. Not to mention the eateries, inns, and shops that will allow you to fully experience this quaint village.

Dana Clemons

Dana Clemons | White Mountain Photography

 

TOP 3 TIPS

1. I never use any color filters in my photography, but prefer to showcase mother nature’s true palette instead. However, a polarizing filter should be kept on your lens throughout most of the foliage season. It’s critical in removing glare, which reflects off leaves and streams, while also giving a slight punch to the image. Use restraint, however, as too much can ruin a good image when put to its maximum effect.

2. Get off the highway and seek out the small scenes. There’s nothing wrong with photographing the iconic scenes, but make sure to allow time to actually walk around. Hike a ways up a trail, muck up a stream bed, walk through the field. Explore. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.

3. When the light is really good … turn around! After composition—light is the most important element in creating a truly exceptional image. So … when you have your tripod set up, your frame composed, and suddenly that perfect moment of light lifts the scene from average to spectacular, take the picture you want—then turn around. Sometimes the opposite direction is even more dramatic!

 

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

Living in Bartlett, one of my favorite drives is to start, pre-dawn, driving up Bear Notch Road towards the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112), for a chance to photograph sunrise colors from the vistas near the top. Then I take a left toward Conway, to witness early light hitting the Swift River and Rocky Gorge. From there I take a left through the Swift River Covered Bridge, following Passaconway to West Side Road and back to Bartlett.

Joe Klementovic

Joe Klementovic / Klementovich Photography

 

TOP 3 TIPS

1. Get off the beaten path! Park the car and walk, bike, run, paddle away from the road. We have so much explorable space here, and unless you go find it, you’ll miss fantastic opportunities for creating great autumn images.

2. Think details: get close and look for simple scenes along streams, rocks, and meadows. There’s no need to show everything—focus on one thing. Add an element of something else that will add a level of interest to the image. Clouds or a person—don’t just shoot a bunch of trees.

3. Shoot in the early morning or the evening; the light during those times will add its own color and brilliance and make any shot look better.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

Evans Notch offers amazing photo ops. The drive to get to it is icing on the cake. You can go through the beautiful farmlands of East Conway and Fryeburg, or go over Hurricane Mountain Road. Evans Notch is narrow, windy, and has a lot less traffic than the other notches nearby. With plenty of trailheads, ponds, streams, and pull outs, you’ll find lots of ways to get off the beaten path.

Cole Scott Photography

Cole Scott Photography

 

TOP 3 TIPS

1. The vast majority of foliage photos are taken from the road or a well-traveled hiking trail. Get a fresh view and surround yourself with vibrant color by getting off the beaten path.

2. Take several different lenses so you can cover all options. For fall foliage, I usually keep a wide-angle zoom, a telephoto, and a macro lens in my bag. Neutral density filters (ND filters) and a tripod are also very useful tools—especially when it comes to taking long exposure water, and slow shutter speed, abstract shots.

3. Make the light work for you. Direct sunlight works best early morning and late in the afternoon. An overcast sky produces softer, more even light, and allows for extended shooting time. And don’t think rainy days are a wash! Rain on brightly covered leaves can produce some really striking images.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

Try Route 302 in Hart’s Location. There are plenty of places to park and get into the woods on your own. Also try Route 113 in East Conway, north to Route 2.

Dan Houde

Dan Houde | Wiseguy Creative Photography

TOP 3 tips

1. Make a plan. Every fall we’re going to get rain, fog, morning sun, evening sun, and quite possible snow-covered foliage. Make a list and plan how you will best capture each one, and where you’ll capture them.

2. Watch the weather. Cool mornings in the fall mean that the warm summer waters of brooks, ponds, and lakes will produce fog. Watch for rain storms moving out, and look for the misty remnants left behind by the warming sunshine. Focus your camera on an old foliage-covered tree and recompose to let the fog create the rest of the photograph. And if you hear snow is in the forecast overnight, take the morning off from work.

3. Use silhouettes to create contrast. Find a broken-down old fence—or any interesting object—then position your camera so it is in the foreground of your photo, just off to the side. Now recompose and look past these elements for a colorful background to create a cool silhouette. Adjust your exposure to darken the foreground object.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE DRIVES

Drive away from the crowds and head to the smaller towns. One of my favorite drives is around Route 153 in Madison and Eaton, and then east to Snowville, Brownfield, and Denmark, Maine via Brownfield Road. Respect private property and be mindful of other photographers.

Chris Whiton

Chris Whiton | White Mountain Images

The crisp, cool air of September and October signals the end of pesky flying insects and humid days. And, as the end of September approaches, a slow, steady tint of color begins painting the leaves in the Great Northern Woods and stretches southward, flooding the lower reaches of the Valley by the second week of October. It is a grand time to be out enjoying the trails.

Foliage conditions change every year. How cold, hot, humid, or rainy it was during the summer can impact how quickly the colors will arrive and how long they will last. Strong winds might pull leaves from the trees prematurely, or a cold snap could bring snow drifting down on the bright red maples. Each flip of the calendar year brings another chance for Mother Nature to show off her beauty in a different way.

TOP 3 TIPS

1. You may have noticed occasionally that your photos seem washed out and much less vibrant than you remember. That is due to direct sunlight. It is best to avoid shooting foliage mid-day on a sunny

afternoon, as you are likely to be a bit disappointed with the results.

2. The hours around sunrise and sunset when the sun is low on the horizon will bring you the best photos for your efforts.

3. If you are using a DLSR, consider buying a circular polarizer, which will bring out the depth of the colors even further. A cloudy day, or a little rain? Even better! The rain will bring out the vibrancy in the leaves, and the clouds will diffuse the light. Waterfalls and streams become particularly attractive with a bit of precipitation. I often find a fall scene taken from beneath an umbrella to be surprisingly fresh. Give it a try—no need to let the weather wash away your plans.

FAVORITE FOLIAGE HIKES

The White Mountains offer no end to the places you can travel to, by automobile or by foot. Anyone can snap a photo out a car window, but to take a really unique photo, you need to get out and wander around. Here are a few of my favorite hiking locations in and around the Mount Washington Valley that offer much to the hiking photographer.

Iron Mountain

At the end of Iron Mountain Road in Jackson, the trailhead for this short hike offers a better view than most summits. Enjoy a hike to the South Cliffs (1.6 miles, one way), or simply visit the trailhead near sunrise or sunset to catch stunning colors rising up on distant Mount Washington.

Kearsarge North

No hiking trip to the Conway area would be complete without visiting this lofty summit, complete with a historic fire tower and 360-degree views. It’s well worth the 3-mile

effort to make the summit from the parking area on Hurricane Mountain Road.

Mount Chocorua

No need for introductions on this one—Chocorua is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. Perhaps you’ve already snapped a classic shot of this bold peak from the viewpoint on the south end of Chocorua Lake. To really make the most out of this iconic mountain, one needs to stand on top of its rocky spire.

My favorite routes are the Champney Falls trail from the north, or the Carter Ledge trail from the east. Champney will get you there quicker, but Carter Ledge will bring you view after view as you travel up a long, open ridge. From the summit of Chocorua and the surrounding ledges, a world of color opens up below as far as the eye can see. Truly a magical place.