My favorite photo: Capturing fall color

Photo by Tim Schoon. (Click on image to enlarge.)

I love fall. Football season. Warm days and crisp, cool nights. Halloween. All of it. But I especially like fall colors.

I spend a lot of time shooting pictures of campus for my job, and I think the campus looks best in the fall. By the time everything is in bloom and greened up in the spring, the students are gone and the campus is empty. It’s too cold (and often brown) in the winter. Fall is perfect. The leaves are orange and yellow and red, and the students fill up the campus and make it feel like a community instead of just a collection of buildings.

The trouble with fall colors is that they are kind of hard to shoot. Light reflecting off the leaves makes the colors look less vivid to the camera than they do to the naked eye. The trees are never in sync when it comes to peak fall color. Colors look better on cloudy days or in the rain, but then the sky isn’t nice and blue. One ill-timed windstorm can end the fall color season in the blink of an eye. And, like almost everything having to do with photography, they look better when the light is low. When the light is low, everybody is still asleep or staying inside until it warms up a little.

Getting a good picture of a tree at the peak of its color when the early morning light is hitting it just right is a little tricky. Then to get that photo with a person walking through the photo at just the right time to give it a touch of the human element is even rarer. On this day, it all came together, and this has been one of my favorite fall colors photos ever since.