Look around; the leaves are changing. In another week or two, the Midcoast will be bursting with oranges, yellows and brilliant reds. These days, most of us carry a cell phone with a camera, which means when coming across a stunning example of fall colors, it’s possible to snap a picture on the run. Even if you do not consider yourself a photographer, you can capture stunning images as you move through your everyday routine. Here are some tips to help you make the most of opportunities to take some great pictures this fall.

Location, location, location

• Is there a hill you can climb nearby? Looking down at an array of trees sporting full colors will often be quite breathtaking and worth a photograph or two. Bradbury Mountain in Pownal springs to mind. There’s also Morse Mountain in Phippsburg.

• River walks also provide scenic views of autumn colors. Plus, there is the added possibility of stunning reflections of the leaves in the nearby rivers. Brunswick’s own walk along the Androscoggin, the Paper Mill Trail in Lisbon Falls and the walk along the Kennebec River in Hallowell are all handicapped accessible and will soon feature stunning views.

Weather conditions and time of day

• Sunshine is nice for taking pictures of foliage; however, many professional photographers advise waiting for a cloudy day. The sun does not bleach out the colors and thus the reds, golds and oranges become more vibrant in the camera’s eye.

• Fog and mist often offer an ethereal atmosphere to a fall picture. Keep a sharp eye out and your phone close at hand if you are an early-morning walker. As the mist clears and the colorful trees appear, look for a good angle to catch the scene with your camera.

• Rainy days also offer opportunities for interesting shots. Focusing on raindrops on the leaves provides a different perspective of the foliage.


• Photographers love what they call the “golden hours.” These are the times around sunrise and sunset, specifically the hour after sunrise and before sunset. Evidently, the light is softer and doesn’t cast the shadows that appear at high noon. Sometimes, there seems to be a golden glow to the scene. Fortunately, as the days grow shorter, one does not need to get up at 5 a.m. to take advantage of the golden hour after sunrise. 7 a.m. now works pretty well.

Focus and exposure

If you are using a flip phone, this tip may not be helpful. However, if you have an iPhone or Android phone of recent vintage, you have the ability to control both the focus and exposure.

• On an iPhone, when you open the camera app, look for the yellow square. As you tap different places on the screen the yellow box will follow. Also, notice that to the right of the box there is a faint yellow vertical line. Slide your finger gently up and down that line and watch the exposure change.

• Androids sometimes vary depending on the manufacturer. Generally, when you tap the screen, a circle will appear. It will also move to where you tap your finger. Often there is a slider bar that allows users to adjust the exposure. Because Androids are not uniform like an iPhone, you may have to play around a bit to familiarize yourself with these options. Worst case scenario: Go to YouTube and search for a video tutorial by typing in both the exact name of your device and autofocus and auto exposure.

• The focus feature allows you to choose where the sharpest focus will be in the image. For example, when you place the iPhone’s yellow box or an Android’s circle on the front of the scene, then the background will blur giving the picture a unique look. It’s fun to play around with the focus to try out different effects.

• Likewise, it’s fun to experiment with the exposure control. Brighten up a dark picture or darken one that seems to be overexposed.


• If your phone’s camera has an HDR setting, try experimenting with this option. HDR (high dynamic range) helps the photographer compensate for less-than-stellar conditions. For example, it alleviates shadows on a bright sunny day and brings out the colors in a sunset. Depending on the model phone you have, the HDR feature may be automatic. In any case, you should find the option in the camera settings on your phone, no matter if it is an iPhone or Android.

Image type

• Social media images sometimes get cropped because the dimensions of the picture do not meet Facebook or Instagram’s specifications. Some phones, especially newer ones, have options for specific social media platforms. Look carefully at the camera screen options and settings to see if these features are available to you.

• The square image option is the one I use for social media postings. My phone does not have the option for specific social media specifications. The square image works well, and I rarely get cropped.

• Panorama and/or 360º options are available on many smartphone cameras. However, we often forget that they are available. Think of all of the cool places where you can use them — mountain tops, shorelines and other locations with vast vistas. Those of you taking your boat out for one more sail before hauling it in have wonderful opportunities for shooting panoramas looking back at the shore. The colorful leaves will stand out against the blue sky and will reflect well in the water.

Reflections, textures, other fall colors

Experiment with using reflections to capture the glory of fall. Above, we mentioned shorelines and how they will reflect gorgeous colors. Here are a couple of other possibilities:

• Windows! Hold your phone right up next to the window at a 90º angle. You will include both the original scene and its reflection in your picture.


• Puddles! After a rainstorm, wander around your neighborhood looking at the puddles. They will reflect the nearby trees. Play around incorporating the puddles into your composition.

• Use your focus option to really narrow in on the patterns and textures of leaves with their different shapes and vein patterns. Also, there is rarely just one color in a leaf, an aspect often not visible to a wider view of trees. Look at the tree bark and think about how its colors and texture complement the leaves. Our cameras help us notice the intricacies of nature.

• Be on the alert for other fall colors besides the trees. Ferns often turn a delightful gold, and the pumpkins and squashes at the farm stands offer a vibrant palette of colors. Don’t forget fall flowers — mums, Michaelmas daisies and other asters all brighten our world and are worthy of a photoshoot.


• Every smartphone has an app where the images are stored. On the iPhone, it’s the Photos app, and on the Android, it’s the Gallery. These apps allow photographers to enhance their images with editing features.

• Cropping allows you to focus on the best parts of the image. Sometimes you can get rid of extraneous people or telephone lines, but most of the time you just get rid of unnecessary parts of the image. Here’s a professional photographer’s strategy: Don’t center your focal point smack dab in the middle of the picture. Instead, crop the image so the focal point is toward the upper left- or right-hand corner. Try it out and see what you think. You can always revert to the original.

• Exposure options allow you to compensate for an image that is either over- or underexposed.


• Colors are pretty easy to make more vibrant. Look for the brightness and saturation options.

• There are apps that allow you to do additional editing if your phone’s app is limited. Try SnapSeed or YouCam Perfect. They are both free.

The colors of fall only last for a short time. One good storm with wind and they are gone. Make sure you have your phone with you every time you go out, and of course, don’t overlook your own backyard. Have fun and experiment with your camera app. Remember, you can easily delete anything you do not like. Have fun this fall.

BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

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