In Search of Fall Color in Austin

In Central Texas, we don’t really get much of a fall foliage season. Half the trees, like Live Oak and Juniper, don’t even lose their leaves in the Fall. But, I did manage to see a little bit of fall color near where I work in Austin.  So, the next day I planned to bring my camera with me and walk around at lunch and see if I could find a decent photo. But, also the next day brought heavy cloud cover that lasted more than a week which robbed the scenery of warm sunlight.

The image below is looking across the trees on a very cloudy day. There is a lot of color in the trees, but the entire scene is kind of washed out by the soft white sky and gray light.

Fall colors in Austin

A few days later it was still overcast, but I wandered around a pond to get some trees reflected across the water. I had a heck of a time getting much out of this in Lightroom. Basically the highlight slider is almost all the way to the left and the shadows slider is almost pegged at the right just to try to get an image that isn’t blown out. I also had to bump up the saturation a bit to get color in the trees. But, I got an OK image, but it wasn’t the great photo that I was imagining.

Fall colors reflected in Austin

So, I waited and waited and the clouds stayed put. I also had plenty of time to think about this photo and had a discussion with someone about how best to take this picture. The plan was to spot meter on the darker part of the scene and try to avoid blowing out the sky. Also, it was suggested that I set the white balance to cloudy.

Eventually the forecast called for clearing skies on Friday afternoon, so I brought my camera to work and waited. In the afternoon, the clouds were breaking and there was a lot of sunlight so I went back to this spot to try again. I originally tried to meter off the darker parts of the scene, but I was still getting an over-exposed image. I set exposure compensation to -1EV and I still wasn’t entirely happy. So, I decided to enable bracketing at 0EV, -1EV, +1EV. Bracketing means that you take 3 pictures and the camera automatically adjust the exposure down with the second one and up with the third one. In Aperture Priority mode, the camera does this by adjusting the shutter speed so your focus depth doesn’t change. With the exposure compensation of -1 and bracketing, I ended up with three images with -1EV, -2EV, and 0EV. I was able to get an image that basically used the entire histogram without clipping, so I figured that I had what I needed. Later I figured out that I should have been metering off the sky not the shadows; I was thinking backwards.

The below image is my final image. I used the -2EV image and reset the white balance to cloudy in post. I also had to bring down the highlights and boost the shadows. I did add some saturation as well to bring out some of the fall colors. I got my reflections, my fall colors with lots of late afternoon sunlight, and a partially blue sky!

Fall colors in Austin Texas reflected in pond

Since I had all of the bracketed images, I also played around a bit with HDR to see if I would like it better. Below is my HDR image using Photomatix Pro. It looks a bit over-saturated to me, but it’s OK. I like the normal single-exposure image better.

Fall colors reflected in a pond in Austin (HDR)

I took a few more photos that I think turned out nicely as well, shown below.



Thanks for reading. Leave a comment, and make suggestion if you like. I am always trying to improve my technique.

4 thoughts on “In Search of Fall Color in Austin

  1. I also prefer the non-HDR version, I think that it turned out very well, worth all the perseverance and effort in the end! The final one with the bridge is interesting too. In general HDR looks unnatural somehow to me and you can see a lot of very oversaturated images on the internet. I’ve never had much success with that technique.

    ( We didn’t get much autumn colour around here, the leaves were turning nicely then we had two big storms that blew them all off 😦 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think HDR is fun, but there is the risk of making the images cartoonish with saturated colors. I have made some that I thought turned out ok.

      Thanks for the feedback.


    1. Thanks, it is close to where I work, so I can run down there in a reasonable amount of time if I think that the conditions are nice. I have also seen deer down there but they don’t like to be photographed.


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