THE GREAT EXTERIORS: Capturing the colors of autumn | Columns


The peak of the gorgeous fall foliage is on its way and it looks like everyone wants to photograph this event. With everyone carrying a camera in their back pocket, it’s now super convenient to take photos, but does a smartphone give you the best results?

It all depends on what you’re looking for, spectacular shots or just photos. I am, of course, a photography freak, I go out almost daily with my camera. I want to capture the beauty that I see, not necessarily what the camera sees.

So what are the ingredients of spectacular shots and can you get them with this new smartphone, or do you need a fancy camera?

I don’t really have any experience with smartphone cameras (I still have an old flip phone!) And I use a good digital camera and several good lenses because they give me a lot of flexibility. I think I can do a lot more with my outfit than with a good smartphone.

I pride myself on taking good wildlife photos and having an intermediate outfit for serious wildlife photography. When people look at my pictures they say “you must have a really expensive camera and a big lens”, but it’s really like winning the Indianapolis 500 race. You can have the most expensive and fastest race car. on the track, but if you don’t know how to use it, you won’t get anywhere, and the same goes for photography. I see some really expensive camera outfits in the great outdoors these days, but a quick glance often tells me that many operators don’t even come close to reaping the potential.

First of all, do you set your camera to automatic mode? For the most part, today’s cameras do a fantastic job in automatic modes, but I think I let the camera make all the decisions and that takes away my satisfaction if the camera takes a good shot, not me. I sometimes use one of these automatic modes, but only to put myself in the lead, and then I go back to manual mode and adjust what I want to show. I want to capture the beauty that I see, not what the camera sees, because often we don’t see things the same way.

I know smart phones have Image Stabilizer and my lenses are probably better than yours too; and in the pictures I can often see the difference between a handheld camera and one that has been placed on a sturdy stand. In the case of wildlife photos, you can’t always get as close as you want, but if you have a very sharp image you can zoom it in a bit and still have a nice image. Holding a smartphone or camera in front of you at arm’s length, staring at the LCD screen while you photograph, will not give you that.

Time of day also has a lot to do with image quality. Take a photo of something at the start or end of the day and compare it to the same photo taken at noon and you will understand what I’m telling you.

Photography is all about light (and understanding). Just as the time of day is important, so too is the direction from which the light comes. Knowing what the different types of lighting are doing to your photos is also an advantage. Bright sunshine can be great at times, but at other times overcast weather can be better; it all depends on what you are photographing and what you want to show. Fall foliage can really be improved by morning or evening sunlight, but there are often times when an overcast day works best.

Understanding your camera settings can also give you better results. Are you using a fast shutter speed to freeze the action or to help your jitter? What about your ISO (film speed)? High ISO will give you faster shutter speeds in low light conditions, but at the cost of a more grainy (blurry) photo.

Most cameras have settings for different types of light such as sun, shade, and flash. Remember to use the right setting and experiment every now and then, which can give you unique results.

Patience is an important part of photography, especially while you are waiting for the right lighting conditions. I love going all the way to Lake Ontario around Point Breeze to see some beautiful sunsets, as this is where you get a last minute amazing view of the sun and the possible colors that come with it. I often take my best sunset photos after sunset and everyone’s gone, sometimes half an hour later. Stick around. Sometimes waiting for the light to be perfect will make the fall foliage stand out better.

A quick word about patience: it is also very important in wildlife photography. Recently, I spent almost two hours with one great egret in particular which allowed me to approach within 20 meters of it. He finally accepted me as part of his world and continued to make a living. By staying with him I got a ton of awesome photos of him hunting and catching minnows, preening his outstretched wings and a lot of other things that others often miss.

So you can let the camera make all the decisions and take what you get, or make more satisfying images that really show what you saw. Sometimes the camera sees things differently from me and sometimes I see things differently from the camera. Good photos come from learning how to balance these two things.

Doug Domedion, outdoor enthusiast and nature photographer, lives in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or

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