10 Reasons Outdoor Photographers Love Autumn

I love summer, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the fall.

By: Andrew Slaton

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Sometimes as I drive down the road to Cora in the Winds, the leaves fall and dance in front of my car, and I feel like I might be in heaven...or some cheesy car commercial. But it’s amazing and I really can’t get enough. I miss fall as soon as it’s gone, and I can’t wait until it arrives again...Every. Single. Year.

Here are my top 10 reasons why outdoor photographers are salivating every year over the return of autumn:

1. Fall Colors

Photo: Andrew Slaton

What can I say? This is self explanatory. The colors of the fall just can’t be beat. The deep greens and blues (to borrow from James Taylor) of summer are magnificent. Totally. But the colors of fall, almost exclusively during a few magical weeks each year, awaken my soul. Red, orange, yellow, and every hue in between. It’s earthy and warm, but those old familiar cool toned skies and purple hued mountains make for supremely balanced images.

2. The Rut… and the animals get crazy

Photo: Andrew Slaton

If you’ve ever heard elk bugling, you’ll know what is so entrancing about the rut. The rut is the mating season of many mammal species, including deer, elk, sheep, moose, pronghorn, caribou, etc. The shorter day lengths of autumn are the trigger for many of these animals. The side-effects of the increased hormones are what make this time of year so exciting and interesting for wildlife observers and photographers.

3. Better Light = Better Photos

Photo: Andrew Slaton

What is it about the fall light? Well, for one, the sun is lower in the sky, so the angle of sunlight is generally prettier and softer. But also, as I mentioned before, the weather creates a situation for the light to be filtered and fantastically interesting. There’s a harshness to the summer sun that fades away with the advent of fall.

4. Longer Nights…

Photo: Andrew Slaton

I know, I know, this seems weird, right. But let me just say, if you’re a seasoned photographer, you’ll know what I’m talking about. We are often slaves to the light. During the summer months, the days are so long. We must rise before the sun to capture the gorgeous pre-dawn and dawn light (4:30-5 AM), and then we cannot truly rest until the sun has again hidden itself from our little part of the earth (9-10 PM). It’s exhilarating, but exhausting. So when the shorter days, longer nights of fall come, it’s a nice reprieve. Well, okay, let’s be honest; I still spend the same amount of time shooting, it just allows me to also capture the night shots I so love to shoot. Thankfully, I still get a solid 5-6 hours of sleep.

5. Dynamic Weather

Photo: Andrew Slaton

With the colder air from the north and first snow comes weather and dramatic clouds. Those bluebird summer days feel long gone, and the beautiful “drama queen” that is nature, peeks out to show you her moody side. The light becomes magic as it penetrates small openings in the clouds, kissing the land. I’m getting giddy just thinking about spending a month in Colorado and Wyoming this fall!

6. Catching The First Snow Is Exhilarating

Photo: Andrew Slaton

Ah, the first snow. It is something I strive to catch every year in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. There is something so magical about it, and as mentioned before, it is the first real indicator of the coming winter. The animals get energized and a beautiful dusting of contrast is added to a yellow and sleepy landscape. Which brings me to my next point…

7. Less Crowds

Photo: Andrew Slaton

I do enjoy people (sometimes), but when I’m on one of my nature/landscape trips, I prefer to avoid crowds. So if you’re like me, autumn is the time for you. The crowds of the summer months dwindle away with the start of new school years, less hospitable weather, and reduction of seasonal services. All is quiet. And peaceful. The way nature should be appreciated!

8. The Animals Are Active And Energized

Photo: Andrew Slaton

The inevitable coming of winter that is marked clearly by the changing from summer to fall, is perhaps the alarm clock for most animals, especially in the mountains and forests. They come alive with the urgency of the moment. Realizing they must feed as much as possible before the unforgiving winter, they become bold and are easily viewed and photographed during the fall.

9. Cooler Temps

Photo: Andrew Slaton

It’s the reason for the lack of mosquitoes and other annoying bugs, but it’s also a welcomed relief to folks like me that appreciate the cool, dry air. Whether you’re in the Smokies or the Rockies, the air begins to teem with a new, crisp energy starting in September. It’s the coming of winter and the first snow that seems to charge the air with a sense of purpose, unlike the relaxed feel of summer.

10. No Mosquitos…okay, less mosquitos at least.

Photo: Andrew Slaton

Depending upon where you choose to go this fall, mosquitos could be the least of your worries. Due to lowering temps, unfavorable for mosquitoes, they tend to hide in the autumn and winter. They’re still there, but mostly inactive. If traveling to more tropical locals, like the Florida Everglades, fall could be the wet season, creating perfect conditions for the tiny insects to ruin your day. Choose wisely, my friends.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.