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Photographing autumn colours in South Africa

Joe Lategan

"This autumn or fall colour image took me a couple of years to capture with these colours. But then the next three years even though I was visiting at the same or right time, they never coloured like this again, but the leaves went straight from green to a brown colour and then fell. Extremely disappointing especially if one have experienced such a high when you are spot on with your dates, the colours are magic and you can capture it".

Photographing autumn colours in South Africa.

What the American and European photographers find easy to capture with regards to autumn colours, we must work extra hard for. Oaks and other trees that colour beautifully are difficult to find and even more difficult to capture from a compositional point of view. Vineyards are more prolific in South Africa's western cape and I will discuss it in another article. And what's even more difficult once you have been lucky enough to, is to think you are going to return the following year within a week or two of the same dates on the calendar and capture the same intensity of colours, is even more difficult. Dates on the calendar when the trees best colour, always vary, as does the intensity and variety of the colours year on year.

Conditions that influence the colouring intensity and colour variations depend on amongst others; how long the leaves hang on the trees during temperature drop from summer to winter, how long or even the temperatures drop from summer to the first cold front, how moderate the wind pics up when winter starts (sudden temperature drop, followed by a very strong wind for half a day will blow most of the leaves from the tree before the leaves can change through the colours), the moisture levels in the air and in the leaves at the period when the temperature drops drastically. This spot took me a couple of years to get with these colours. The next three years even though I was at the right time at the right spots, they never coloured but went straight from green to a brown colour and then were blown from the trees by strong winds without me capturing one image. Extremely disappointing especially if one had such a high when you were spot on with your dates and is able to capture the greatest variations in colours on the leaves. Climatic conditions and the warming of temperatures is also making an impact on the colouring. Of course this story has a scientific explanation or linguistic arrangement, but from a photographers point of view this is my observations. So next time you capture a tree or a group of trees with the magical range of colours, in South Africa's Western Cape do understand that you are actually lucky.

Although I captured these images I wasn't moved to a level to invest in printing and displaying them for the purpose of selling them in my galleries  for the simple reason that a composition such as this, I felt needed a medium format camera and then it would have sold pretty well and I didn't feel it deserved putting effort into marketing them then. What makes them special within the South African context is just the fact that the autumn coloured trees are not in full display every year as explained above. In fact its relatively rare now a days. Autumn colours in Vineyards are the easier to capture in mass, in general but it still is a challenge to find winning compositions for the serious photographer. With in the Western cape the colours of vineyards and trees can be found within the same seasonal time period, but the intensity of colours will vary from location to location, due to temperature differences on different locations therefore the colours will be first visible, where temperatures drop first. The gap within to capture each location is within a week and maximum two. I have discovered that it can colour (leaves)  for one day only and if strong winds arrive for winter then winds can destroy colouring and blow down leaves before full colouring in heavy storms. In other words the leaves that hae started to colour will be blown off before they reach maximum intensity. I have made a calendar per location and visit each. The wind is a large factor as it can cause too much movement if everything goes well for the day of capture and require high iso's to increase shutter speeds to be able to freeze the leaves due to wide apertures. #joescamera #photographingsa #autumncolours #westerncape #westerncapetourism #autumn #fall #fallinsouthafrica #colourfulltrees #