The morning sun slants mischievously through the now-golden aspens, incandescent poetry to all who ponder the annual significance of nature's endless cycle.
From Logan to St. George, fall has sprung. Or in the case of autumn leaves, fall is falling: breathtaking reds, lustrous yellows, pumpkin oranges and chocolate browns.Capturing the changing shades of autumn was the subject of the 1992 Redrock and Fall Colors Photo Workshop in the southern Utah mountain town of Brian Head, where nationally renowned photographer Bill Ellzey taught the finer nuances of fall photography.
"No question Utahns live in one of the most beautiful places in the world," said Ellzey, who hails from spectacular Telluride, Colo. "Utah's fall colors are every bit as beautiful as anywhere else, even better than many. But what makes Utah even nicer for photography is the spectacular red-rock formations in addition to the fall colors."
In places like Cedar Breaks National Monument, Zion National Park and the Dixie National Forest, the sheer sandstone cliffs and hoodoos serve as a cardinal backdrop to a painter's pallet of high-elevation trees, shrubs and grasses, each taking on a different hue as autumn bites ever deeper.
It's a combination found in abundance like nowhere else in the world, Ellzey said. It's something that first brought him here last year and brought him back again this year.
Ellzey was joined by almost a dozen professional and amateur photographers who basked in the best of southern Utah's fall scenery: sunrise on Brian Head Peak, sunset against Cedar Breaks, the mossy greens of Mammoth Spring, the canopy of yellow that characterizes the Dixie forests.
"There are a lot of red leaves here, more so than I've seen in Colorado where I live," Ellzey observed.
Photographing fall colors is something thousands of Utahns do every year. But it's not something very many people do well, Ellzey noted. At best, most fall photographs are ordinary.
"It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the spectacular colors and just start shooting off pictures," he said. "What makes a good picture is to look through the camera a second time and ask yourself: What can I do to make this photo extraordinary? What can I do to make this a photograph I want to look at a second time?"
Ellzey, a successful free-lance photographer who has traveled the world on assignment for some of the nation's most prestigious publications, offered a few suggestions
to those venturing out for the perfect fall photograph:
- Compose the photograph before you snap the picture. Look for subtle patterns in the leaves or the trunks of trees. Ellzey particularly likes "C" and "S" patterns, as well as diagonal lines.
- Look for unusual or interesting natural lighting and shadows. Instead of shooting the photograph at 2 p.m. with the sun directly overhead, wait until 5 or 6 p.m. when the sun streaks through the leaves at softer angles. The softer the angle, the more colorful the photograph.
- Fall colors are spectacular in and of themselves, but add something else to frame, elements like logs, rocks, streams or even fences. If the sky is blue, look to add a puffy white cloud to the frame.
- Don't be afraid to experiment with different lenses and filters. Try the shot with a wide angle and a telephoto, using different elements to frame the same subject. And experiment with different shutter speeds and apertures, creating different effects with different depths of field.
- "Most of all, study out the shot. Have patience, be precise and look for different colors or unusual lighting. It might take a second or a third look to see that extra little something that will make it a photograph worth looking at again and again," he said.
Typically, fall colors begin changing at Utah's higher elevations about Sept. 15. The trees at lower elevations, like Zion National Park, usually start changing in early October.
The cottonwoods and shrubs of Utah's desert country, like Canyonlands National Park, usually don't begin changing until mid- or late October.
For the individual who really wants to pursue the perfect fall photograph, there are four to six weeks of every year when vibrant colors can be found somewhere in the state, he said. Often, it's just a matter of following the changing colors as they creep toward lower elevations.
"It's just a matter of looking for it and working for it," he said.
The fall photography workshop is sponsored annually by Brian Head.