People travel far and wide to see dramatic golden leaves– so much so that there’s a whole global industry based around fall foliage. In the United States, the term “leaf peeping” has cropped up in recent years to describe the phenomenon, and some places, like New England, wrack in billions every autumn. According to some reports, Maine alone attracts $1.5 billion in “leaf peeping” revenue.

The changing colors of the leaves might seem like a constant for those who experience all four seasons, but sadly, fall foliage might be in jeopardy. A changing climate, rising temperatures, and increases in precipitation and nitrogen levels all affect not only the duration of autumn but also the vibrancy of its colors. If things continue down this path, autumn leaves could be duller in the future than they are today.

In honor of the colorful season, we asked five fantastic photographers to tell us about their favorite spots to shoot fall foliage. Below, they reveal their secret (and-not-so-secret) locations, a few of their best stories, and their top tips for making beautiful pictures to move and inspire generations to come.

1. “Be open to the possibilities, and don’t get stuck just looking for what you hoped to photograph.”

Michael Warwick

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/new-england-pond-autumn-145672697?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">Michael Warwick</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Mamiya RZ67, 50mm Mamiya lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Exposure 1/30 sec; f22; ISO 50 (Fuji Velvia 120mm).

What’s your favorite place to photograph fall leaves?

The first time I went to New England for the fall colors, I flew into Boston and spent the night in a motel just north of Boston. I woke up early to a clear, crisp, frosty morning. I had sort of mapped out a route for the next six to seven days, and I headed up north into New Hampshire. The sun was just starting to rise and illuminated incredible hillsides of red and yellow trees. I was looking for a freeway exit that would give me some elevation.

Eventually, I saw a small sign that directed me to Grant Pond, so I followed that road. I drove quietly through a campground (it was still very early), and I came to this small parking area at the pond. The sun was just cresting over the hill behind me and was lighting the trees along the rim of the pond. It was breathtaking: the reflection of the trees in the water, the blue sky, the quiet. I was in awe!

While I was taking the photos, I became aware of an older gentleman behind me watching me from the parking lot. We exchanged “Good Mornings.” From his accent, I could tell he was from the New England/Boston area.

While I was taking my photos, I had also heard some scurrying just around a bend from me. The wind was starting to blow, and I was finishing taking my photos. I packed up my gear and walked around the bend to see what was going on. There was another photographer with his 8×10 view camera, and he and the gentleman from the parking lot were talking. I walked over to say hello, and we introduced ourselves.

They then asked me how I had found this place, and I told them that I simply had taken this exit off the highway and followed the road and a few small signs. Well, they looked at me like I was either crazy or from another planet. Apparently, the other photographer had been camping there for a few days just waiting for that moment, and he almost overslept and missed it!

Image by Michael Warwick.
Image by Michael Warwick.

Pictured: [1] Image by Michael Warwick. [2] Image by Michael Warwick.

Pro Tip

I have learned not to have too many expectations when traveling to a location. Being open to possibilities is a necessity. Once, when I was in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, it snowed with peak color. The reds and oranges and yellows were spectacular with a dusting of snow, and I only had about ninety minutes of daylight left to capture it.

Overcast, drizzly days can actually make fall colors come alive. Use those days to look for roads lined with colorful trees or closer shots of vibrant trees. If the weather turns sour, look for homes decorated with fun fall and Halloween decorations. New England is great for decorated homes for Halloween. Be open to the possibilities, and don’t get stuck just looking for what you hoped to photograph.

Another tip… when in New England, stop at the old cemeteries. The larger, most beautiful trees are in the cemeteries. Over the years, the maples and hardwoods have been cut down and have re-grown several times, but the maples in the cemeteries have not been cut.

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/autumn-fall-trees-water-493164742?src=WKPnwB7Iuty7ks9utyhE8Q-1-18?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">Michael Warwick</a>.</em>

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

Being in nature is a wonderful opportunity to be quiet and peaceful. Many, many times, my ability to listen and follow my instincts has led me to amazing photo ops. Be open. Listen. Go with your instincts. Appreciate simply being in nature, and treat it with respect.

2. “Summer leaves is generally pretty boring. But the same photo in the fall can be something special.”

Eric Urquhart

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/looking-down-over-south-end-woodstock-326779346?src=aFQxuLQqoO9iaLWt4Jq2RA-1-0?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">Eric Urquhart</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Exposure 1/500 sec; f7.1; ISO 160. This is a stitched panoramic with three vertical shots.

What’s your favorite place to photograph fall leaves?

I would say Vermont is my favorite place to shoot the fall foliage. I love the enormity of it. It’s everywhere. The entire state is so vibrant with reds, oranges, and yellows during peak season. The variety it offers is amazing, from covered bridges, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers to grand vistas with rolling hills covered in brilliant orange hues.

The day I took this photo, I started out early morning on a road trip to Vermont. My plan was to head up the scenic 101 from Massachusetts to Woodstock, Vermont. I had planned stops along the way at rivers and covered bridges and a few spontaneous stops. Although it was peak season and the foliage was stunning everywhere, when I got to Woodstock, I felt like I still had not gotten a shot I was satisfied with. 

Feeling like the day was done, I headed into a coffee shop and asked the locals where they would suggest I go for a good shot. I was directed to a small hike up a hill that was within walking distance from the shop. Sunset was approaching, so I headed up the trail. The trail was wooded the entire way, and I began to doubt that there would be any views.

Once I arrived at the top, I wandered around a bit and found a spot with no trees obstructing the view. I was just in time. The sun was setting, casting this great light on the valley and surrounding hills. The perfect ending to the day.

Bear Mountain, New York

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/empty-road-leading-through-fall-foliage-693294148?src=Dpans7_OACIXRcOsdisZMg-1-3?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">Eric Urquhart</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Nikon D7100, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Exposure 1/10 sec; f7.1; ISO 160.

Pro Tip

Fall is a great time of year to go intimate with your shots as well as expansive. Focusing in on a single or small group of green summer leaves is generally pretty boring. But the same photo in the fall can be something special. I believe autumn offers a greater range of interesting shots. Go out, and take full advantage of it.

Acadia National Park, Maine

<em>Image by </em><a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/ru/image-photo/view-maine-coastline-acadia-national-park-496453393?src=SlFNZBL_ORsbFG9g66ZvNQ-1-0?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog"><em>Eric Urquhart</em> </a>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Nikon D7100, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Exposure 1/200 sec; f8; ISO 100.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

As a landscape photographer primarily, I find inspiration in the natural world. I never get tired of seeing expansive views of majestic snow-capped mountain tops or thundering waves crashing into coastline rocks. There is so much variety in God’s creation; I can only hope to capture a glimpse of it with my lens.

3. “Due to the warm days and cold nights… the morning sun is bright and soft at the same time.”

Leonid Tit

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/cs/image-photo/morning-st-magdalena-village-gorgeous-scene-555021724?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">Creative Travel Projects (Leonid Tit)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 16mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f10; ISO 125.

What’s your favorite place to photograph fall leaves?

For me, as well as for many landscape photographers, autumn is one of the most beloved times of the year, with its colored leaves, morning fogs, first frosts, and first snows.

But apart from all of this, the most important thing for me in autumn is the sun. It might sound strange, but I love autumn not so much for its colors as for the wonderful light. The sunlight in the autumn is pleasant, beautiful, and soft. Because the sun does not rise very high on autumn days, it creates the effect of side illumination. In the mountains, the sun is so low that it constantly touches the high peaks.

Last autumn, I went to photograph the Dolomites in Italy. Thanks to the high rocky massifs in the valleys between the mountains, I could catch a beautiful play of light. It was in the Alps that I most liked the autumn sunlight that broke through the mountain peaks. The yellow larches lit up with this light are another miracle in this region.

To make this photo, I went up the hill to meet the dawn. When the morning sun lit up the valley with the church, I saw it on the top of the mountain. I had to run several kilometers into the valley in a down jacket and a backpack.

Image by Creative Travel Projects.
Image by Creative Travel Projects.

Pictured: [1] Image by Creative Travel Projects. [2] Image by Creative Travel Projects.

Pro Tip

In order to catch beautiful light in the mountains, I choose the time when the weather is warm and dry and clear. In the autumn, the French and Italians call this phenomenon a “Saint Martin’s Summer.” Due to the warm days and cold nights during this period, the morning sun is bright and soft at the same time. You can safely take a picture with the sun in the frame and not be afraid of spoiling the image. If you have a good lens with a closed aperture, you can catch beautiful sun blisters or stars. The “Saint Martin’s Summer” occurs at the end of October.

Nature is amazing in all her manifestations, and photography is a kind of communication with her. I do not plan in advance what a picture will look like. I just listen to nature and do my job. Be attentive. Nature has already done everything for us; we just need to see it.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I see inspiration in nature. I just need to jump on my motorbike and leave the city. And well, of course, I often review interesting photographers’ portfolios on the Internet.

4. “When shooting autumn foliage, I often like to go with a longer lens… Combined with some mist, it can help create more depth in the images.”

Benjamin Goode

<em>Image by<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/gorgeous-vineyard-adelaide-hills-437444332?src=RmMDOxkY2sAcJFA_wq5TjQ-1-8?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog"> kwest (Benjamin Goode)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Sony A7r, 55mm lens. This panoramic image consists of six images stitched together in Photoshop. <strong>Settings</strong>: Exposure 1/20 sec; f10.

What’s your favorite place to photograph fall leaves?

The Adelaide Hills in South Australia is such a beautiful, picturesque place with amazing colors everywhere, from vineyards and orchards to forests. This is a vineyard I had my eye on shooting for ages, but I had to wait for the right time of year and conditions. It was well worth it when I finally got to capture it in all its glory!

Pro Tip

When shooting autumn foliage, I often like to go with a longer lens rather than with my usual wide angle style. Combined with some mist, it can help create more depth in the images. I also like to shoot after the rain when the leaves glisten.

Image by kwest.
Image by kwest.

Pictured: [1] Image by kwest. [2] Image by kwest.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

It’s just inside me! I’m inspired every day to get out and shoot nature.

5. “Travel a lot, go to parks often, and discover new places.”

Victor Bondar

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/beautiful-autumn-landscape-colorful-forest-park-492580249?src=jIU0TdMg4THM-xkAYWtjfQ-2-97?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">bondvit (Victor Bondar)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 6D, EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 118mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f4; ISO 400.
<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/ru/image-photo/colorful-autumn-landscapenature-backgroundgorgeous-forest-autumnscenic-579851443?src=jIU0TdMg4THM-xkAYWtjfQ-2-8?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">bondvit (Victor Bondar)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 5D, Sigma 12.0-24.0 mm lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 17mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f5; ISO 400.
<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/ru/image-photo/fall-leaf-closeup-green-leaves-waterdrops-492845026?src=jIU0TdMg4THM-xkAYWtjfQ-2-95?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">bondvit (Victor Bondar)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 6D, EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens + macro rings. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 200mm; exposure 1/320 sec; f5; ISO 1250.

What’s your favorite place to photograph fall leaves?

Photography is my life, work, and inspiration. When commercial projects make up the bulk of your work, great comfort and relaxation can be found in nature photography, especially in places with beautiful landscapes. I enjoy the golden autumn, when all vegetation becomes multi-colored: yellow, red, orange, purple, etc.

My favorite places to shoot autumn landscapes are forests and parks that are close to lakes or rivers. In such places, there are often morning fogs that cover everything. Droplets of water create a mystical atmosphere. It looks like in a fairy tale: in the autumn coolness, dew and drops of water along with the leaves fall on a cold, wet ground.

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/ru/image-photo/colorful-autumn-landscapenature-backgroundgorgeous-forest-autumnscenic-579851476?src=jIU0TdMg4THM-xkAYWtjfQ-2-9?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">bondvit (Victor Bondar)</a> –</em> <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 5D, EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 81mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f4; ISO 100.

Pro Tip

Travel a lot, go to parks often, and discover new places. Observe the changing season in the vegetation in your region. It’s best to start shooting early in the morning, at sunrise. At that time, the light is soft, and it is easier to catch the fog over the reservoirs. Find glades and alleys where trees hang down and make a corridor. Use different focal lengths to achieve the best result. I personally shoot with long-focus lenses.

<em>Image by <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/ru/image-photo/beautiful-colorful-autumn-landscape-forest-foggy-493412308?src=jIU0TdMg4THM-xkAYWtjfQ-2-89?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=leafpeeping&utm_source=CONTENT&utm_medium=leafpeeping&utm_content=leafpeeping&utm_campaign=blog">bondvit (Victor Bondar)</a> </em>– <strong>Gear</strong>: Canon EOS 6D, EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens. <strong>Settings</strong>: Focal length 104mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f4; ISO 250.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I find the inspiration and energy to create new work by traveling to new places. I find new locations, places, and landscapes for myself. Our planet is very beautiful, and we have to keep it for future generations!