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Photovision Magazine

Photography Articles and Techniques
The Hills are Ablaze
Fall Color in New England
From Vol. 1 No. 2

By: Ja Densmore

So it’s your first photography trip to the area? Being a New Hampshire native I have a few suggestions for those photographers lucky enough to make the journey.

The Connecticut River Valley is the perfect place to be at this time of the year. The area includes the Connecticut River which is the border between New Hampshire and Vermont. Locate Hanover on a road map of New England. Hanover, on the New Hampshire side, is about half way up the state, right on the river. Using this as the center, draw a circle with a radius of approximately 40 miles. The photographic opportunities that occur within this circle will keep you very busy.

The peak foliage moves from the North to the South. The chilly Fall nights complemented with warm days make perfect conditions for super fall foliage. Sugar maples,white birches and other hardwoods dress themselves in brilliant hues of reds, yellows and oranges mixed with leaves that are still green. Breathtaking!

First and foremost pick the right date for your trip. There have always been debates about the perfect time for peak color. Through the years I have observed that the first week in October is probably the best bet. The reason that this is my pick is that it gives one a little leeway in making choices. If the color has not peaked in the Hanover area one can drive north where the color has already started. On the other hand, if the color has passed its peak in this area, one may travel south to catch the color. As I mentioned before, the colors start in the colder north and gradually work their way south.

Here are few suggestions which might help you have a successful trip.

1. Don’t be afraid to travel the back roads. Discover for yourself scenes you would like to photograph. If one area doesn’t interest you drive on to another. There are plenty of places even along main highways. Caution: don’t photograph on Interstates except in designated rest areas!

2. Interesting shots — Even though sugaring takes place in late Winter or early Spring, sugar houses bordered by sugar maples ablaze in fall colors are great photo subjects; fields and pastures, especially those with livestock; New England red barns, with hills and trees for background; streams with colorful leaves floating, rocks and shrubs.

Churches and country stores are available subjects, but ask permission before photographing people or homes or accessing private land. Most New Englanders will be delighted to accommodate you if you ask first. (As a common courtesy, always pick up your film wrappers, empty cans, etc., — keep it pristine for the next person). Remember to get releases if you intend to sell.

3. Even unexpected places can produce great photo opportunities. One of my best Fall photos was taken at the far end of a grocery store parking lot, where I had set up my tripod while waiting for my daughter to make a quick dinner pick up!

4. Ask the natives. Even though questions may be getting to be “old hat” to them, if you take the time and use the right approach (courtesy always helps) you might be rewarded with a delightful suggestion or get to share in a secret spot.

5. Make your reservations early if you plan to stay in a motel or country inn! Rooms are in very short supply at this time of the year.

6. Don’t fret about inclement weather. Even in heavy cloud cover or light rain you can get great foliage photos. On a cloudy day or in light rain use saturated film such as Fuji Velvia or the new Kodak Ektachrome 100 S.

7. October weather calls for a mixed bag of clothes. In a matter of hours hot humid weather can turn to cold sleet or snow. Layered shirts, vests, jackets and rainsuits should be a part of your gear. Bring a waterproof cover for your camera and, if plan to do any hiking, a backpack to carry your equipment

8. Remember that a heavy rain followed by wind will cause the leaves to drop off the trees, thus the end of the Fall foliage season.

9. Be prepared that occasionally, regardless of your well laid plans, Autumn in New England can have all the punch of a grade “B” movie. If this happens, take it as your chance to enjoy the local color — church suppers, antique shops, country stores, art galleries and craft shows. Perhaps an off color year is nature’s way of luring you back again for the glorious trees that are so famous in New England!

For information on fall foliage in the New England area contact The New Hampshire State Tourism office in Concord 1-800-386-4664 or (603)386-4664, or the Vermont State Tourism office in Montpelier 1-800-837-6668 or (802) 828-3237. The square format photographs accompanying this article were made using a Hasselblad. The images with a rectangular aspect ratio were made using a Nikon.


Ja Densmore, a former director of Professional Photographers of Colorado, studied at the Winona School of Photography. His work has been exhibited in Colorado and published in newspapers and magazines including, The Boston Globe, Outdoor Photographer, U.S. Ski Racing, and In-Line. Ja has also led photography workshops for The Photographers’ Formulary Workshops in Montana.