Destinations / Tutorials

In Your Backyard – Fall Colours in Ontario

Words: Colin Field | Photos: Colin Field and Mike Last

Capturing the Colours

When it comes to shooting landscapes in Ontario and across Canada, there is no better season than the fall. As leaves change colour, forests light up in a rainbow of reds, yellow and oranges that are incredibly inspiring to the outdoor photographer.

Tips for Getting the Shot

Light trumps all
As always in outdoor photography the best time to shoot is sunrise and sunset. And thankfully, the morning is not obscenely early this time of year. If you’re around lakes or rivers, the changing temperatures will cause mists in the morning, helping you create amazing images of fall colours. Being set up 45 minutes before sunrise or sunset will lead to the best shots. If you’re hiking to your location, remember to bring a flashlight to get in before the sun rises, or out after it sets.

Timing is Everything
Fall colours generally peak in early October. If you’re too early you won’t get the most colour for your buck, if you’re too late, the bare trees will kill the overall effect in a scenic shot. One wind storm or one heavy rain will knock a lot of leaves off the trees, so when you notice the colours are peaking, you need to get out there. Don’t delay, it doesn’t last long.

If you don’t already own a polarizing filter, get one. Fall is the perfect time to experiment with a polarizer as they can increase the contrast in your photos and give the colours a deeper saturation.

Use a tripod 
When shooting at dusk or dawn, a tripod is a huge advantage. Using a cable release, or your camera’s self-timing feature will help you create successful long exposures, letting in enough light during these low-light conditions and also allow moving elements, like streams or waterfalls to blur.

If you miss the peak of the season, there is plenty of opportunity in close up shots. Leaves will cover the forest floor, drift down rivers and float in ponds. Dewdrops on leaves make for endless subject matter. Overcast skies are common in the fall, so shooting close-ups in the forest during this time is a great alternative to wide open scenics.

Location, Location, Location

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

When it comes to shooting in Ontario in the fall, one word comes to mind as the location to beat all: Algonquin. The forests of Algonquin explode with colour and when you combine that with endless numbers of lakes, rivers and scenic vistas, it’s every photographer’s dream location.

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Rouge River Valley

Closer to the GTA, the Rouge River Valley is a great place to shoot during the fall colours. At 40 square kilometers with multiple entrance points, the Glen Eagles Vista entrance provides plenty of scenery to get your shutter going.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

Most tourism districts have their own fall driving tour web pages. If you’ve got a favourite region you like to travel to and are planning a fall photo blitz, google the region and fall colours and you’re sure to find a great listing of places that will make for great photographs. Have fun out there!

Colin Field is a photographer, journalist and editor living in Clarksburg, ON. He has shot for numerous editorial and commercial clients, specializing in action sports and outdoor photography. His portfolio can be seen at:

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