The 2016 fall season has been unusual to say the least. Warm temperatures in October and early November (especially warm nights) have prevented the fall color peak we normally get in late October. Although Ozark scarlet oak has finally turned brilliant red in southeast Missouri, the normal progression of forest fall color just didn't happen this year.
One tree species that is a reliable fall color producer year in and year out is the bald cypress that occurs in some of our remnant lowland swamps and sloughs of southeast Missouri. Warm weather or drought never seems to prevent the fall red/orange color of this deciduous conifer. I have been photographing it for many years, and I like it in both soft overcast light and direct backlighting. This particular scene is from the edge of Allred Lake, a Missouri Department of Conservation Natural Area in Butler county. Early morning backlight creates a color lightshow that is hard to beat for fall color.
The colors of the fall landscape are enjoyed by almost everyone. Although Missouri is not as showy as some regions of the country we do have many locations that provide opportunities for subtle and beautiful fall photography. Finding these locations and then creating worthy images is what fuels my passion for fall landscape photography.
The arrangement of several striking fall color elements come together in this image along Current River in Carter county. The glade-like bluff has the oranges and reds of fall warm season grasses plus a few orange and green oak seedlings. The river bank is lined with sycamore trees that develop amazing fall colors of yellow, pink, and orange. Contrasting with all of the warm tones is the crystal clear Current River and the other woody foliage that remains green. All of these colors are intensified with the soft lighting underneath the umbrella of an overcast sky.
Timing is an important feature of this scene. Although it is beautiful throughout the year, at the peak of the fall season and in this wonderful subdued lighting, it is transformed into a beautiful colorful display that is truly remarkable. When I see such an scene in my camera viewfinder, it is almost breathtaking, and its why I keep coming back for more.
It would have been very difficult to make this photo just a few years ago. I shot this handheld out of a kayak that was impossible to hold absolutely still in the water of Stanley Creek. Since I needed a small aperture of f16 to hold enough depth of field and provide for the sunstar, in the past this would have required a shutter speed way to slow to freeze this scene sharply. But recent cameras high ISO capability allow us to just crank up the ISO sensitivity and create images like this that once we could only dream about, unless we were tethered to a tripod. Its a great time to be a photographer, and maybe only real old timers like myself can fully appreciate that.
I love sunstars. Some photographers dismiss them as gimmick or cliché, but I find if they are subtle and done well, they almost always impart a realism that adds to the scene. I like the imposing near cypress trunk and the morning backlit orange color of the fall foliage in the background. This scene is from Stanley Creek in Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. A beautiful place to kayak or hike along on a fall morning.