A maple tree in all its glorious fall color towers over a meadow in Johnson, Vermont.
Photo Credit : Photographs Courtesy of Kindra Clineff
Growing up in New Hampshire’s Connecticut River Valley, Kindra Clineff fell in love with photography and autumn. Thousands of images later, the adoration continues. What goes into capturing the iconic fall foliage shot? We caught up with Clineff at her Topsfield, Massachusetts, home and studio to find out.
Let There Be Light!
Backlight, that is. Bright sunlight can wash out foliage color, so Clineff avoids shooting with the sun at her back. Instead, she aims her camera in its direction. Backlighting her subjects, she says, makes the leaves and grass look more vibrant. But shooting this way requires finding something with which to shade your lens (more than just a lens shade) so that there’s no sun glare. Clineff’s foolproof method: “I’m a master at finding and working with the shadows cast by trees, signs, and even telephone poles,” she jokes.
Sundown can be magical, but Clineff prefers early morning. Often, she’s out before the sun is up—for a story in northern Maine she was hiking a trail at 4:30 a.m.—but the payoff is extraordinary. The light is gorgeous, and “if you get that fog or mist, that’s the best,” she says. “For a recent Yankee assignment in northern New Hampshire, I made repeated trips to specific locations just to get the moment when the mist was coming off the Androscoggin River, with the foliage in the background.”
Roll With It
Keep in mind that fall foliage isn’t a singular moment. A pretty image may be a tree that’s topped with color but still green below. A week later, that same tree may be bare at the top but vibrantly colorful closer to the ground. Also, autumn color is about more than just the maples. “Look at everything around you,” Clineff says. “I find blueberry fields unbelievable. Their rich crimsons are unearthly.”
Thanks to the Web, Clineff can scout out areas before she visits, for conditions and for color. Her favorite tool? The webcam: “It’s great for weather, and you can see what the foliage is looking like.”
When Clineff was shooting in Boston one morning early in her career, a stranger gave her some advice that has remained with her, whether she’s shooting foliage or not. Don’t forget to consider the shadows, he told her. “I’ve never forgotten that,” Clineff says. “He was talking about shadow as a graphic element but also much more. Be aware of everything; don’t narrow your field of vision.”
For more on Clineff and her work, visit: kindraclineff.com