Jay Sousa: Don't have to go far for fall colors

November 19, 2011 

Jay Sousa

I am very fortunate as a professional photographer to be able to travel to beautiful locations and make photographs, but sometimes I just can't get out of town because of other commitments. Fortunately, Merced and the surrounding area have many scenic spots to photograph. I would like to share some favorite local photographic locations.

A couple of weeks ago, I made big plans to photograph the sunset on El Capitan and the November full moon in Yosemite from Taft Point. Unfortunately, a storm closed Glacier Point Road, which would have made the walk out to the point a very long hike through the snow. Having gotten myself psyched up to make some images, I went out to one of my favorite places locally to photograph the full moon rising over the Sierra. From Lake Road, just south of the University of California at Merced campus, you will have an unobstructed view of the mountains as the moon creeps over the crest. Try to arrive before sunset and then watch how beautiful the valley can be as the shadows grow long and the sun goes down.

Other photographic opportunities also exist on Lake Road. As the setting sun bathes the UC campus buildings, golden light reflects off the windows against the backdrop of the Sierra foothills.

Merced also has some beautiful areas of fall color. Right now is about peak for our autumn display of red, yellow and gold. Bear Creek is lovely this time of year. Grab your camera and stroll the bike path. Rahilly Park on Parsons Avenue between Olive and Yosemite avenues displays some amazing fall colors. There are a couple of nice ponds in the park that make terrific photographic subjects, with reflections and the golden leaves floating on the water.

A couple of things to keep in mind: Try photographing later in the day or early in the morning because the lower angle of the sun will make better photos. An hour before sunset to just after sunset is best. Also try shooting in shade; bright colors will pop in soft, even light.

If the sun is out, position yourself so the leaves are backlit, meaning the sun is shining through the leaves toward your camera. And remember, as with most subjects you photograph, try to keep your composition simple. Don't try to include too much or your image will be busy and hard to look at.

If you're like most people, you'll spend your time looking up at all the beautiful color, but spend some time looking down as well. Look on the ground for patterns of leaves that have dropped and you will see rich textures and bold detail. If you get out early in the morning on a cold day, look for frost or water droplets on the leaves.

I have posted some images of the fall colors from around Merced on my website, www.jaysousaphotography.com. Click on "Images of Earth" and you are there.

Your assignment is to photograph the fall colors this weekend before all the leaves are gone. You can email one image to me at jay.sousa@sbcglobal.net. I will try to respond to as many of you as I can.

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