Chris Munn Photography | Autumn - A Photographer's Inspiration

Autumn - A Photographer's Inspiration

March 08, 2015  •  1 Comment

Autumn's Delight, Black Springs Bakery, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia, Landscape PhotographyAutumn's Delight, Beechworth VICLocation : Black Springs Bakery, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia

Photo ID : CM61740
Edition Size : 300

Built in the days when bushrangers and gold miners roamed the surrounding countryside, Black Springs Bakery provides a tangible link to the once thriving community of Black Springs. The original bakery was built from timber in 1875, and had, by 1877 been replaced by the granite building which stands today. With its facade adorned by Virginia Creeper, the bakery is a spectacular sight in mid autumn, as the green of summer gives way to the vibrant reds of cool autumn days.

I did not have this image in mind when I arrived at Black Springs Bakery on a beautiful autumn's afternoon. I had set up my camera much further back with the intention of photographing the entire building. As the sun drifted below the horizon, I was suddenly struck by the combinations of vine, windows and door. With the light rapidly fading, I quickly repositioned my camera, capturing this autumn delight.

This beautiful panoramic photograph is available for purchase as a limited edition print. To place your order, simply click the 'Buy' button at the top of the page.

'Autumn's Delight', Black Springs Bakery, Victoria

Summer has only just drawn to a close, yet there is an unmistakable change in the air. Can you feel it? As we enter March, the wonderful long days of January and February begin to fade, the nights grow chilly and amidst the crisp autumnal air, shades of gold and red slowly transform our cities, parks and small country towns. While I will miss summer's warmth and my late afternoon rides along the river, I am excited by the possibilities the dynamic seasons of autumn, winter and spring promise. These are my favourite days for photography, as the landscape so dormant over summer, suddenly awakens.

As I look forward to once again donning my pack and wandering in search of wild light, I thought it would be fun to share some autumnal photographs, stories and a few general tips for the coming season.

When is Autumn at its Best?

Although autumn spans the months of March, April and May I have learnt the hard way that autumn colour is not predictable, as the timing of the best colour will vary significantly between specific trees, locations and even from year to year. A long warm summer could delay the onset of autumn colour well into May, while an early onset of cold weather could bring out the best in our trees early. When trees do finally change, their best colour may last a week or as little as a day, their foliage prematurely dislodged by strong winds. If you have a favourite autumn location, it is best to visit often. It would be a shame to miss the best colour by a day or two and have to wait another year.

I find timing to be one of the more challenging aspects of landscape photography in autumn, particularly if lengthy travel times to distant locations are involved. While we have little control, we can seek advice from locals and hope for the best.

A few years ago I set out on a 17 hour journey to the New England district of New South Wales, hoping to photograph Gostwyck Chapel. To be on the safe side, I called ahead and was advised by a local motel that the chapel currently had its best autumn cover in years. Unfortunately, the day I headed north a cold front passed through bringing heavy rain and strong winds. The following morning as I watched the chapel emerge from the darkness, my heart sank. A carpet of red lay on the ground, with the chapel seemingly stark and bare. Fortunately, my disappointment was short lived as only one wall had been stripped. A healthy cover of Boston ivy had survived the wind and rain.

Going to the Chapel, Gostwyck, New South Wales, Australia, Landscape PhotographyGoing to the Chapel, Gostwyck NSWLocation : Gostwyck, New South Wales, Australia

Photo ID : CM61723
Edition Size : 300

The New England Tablelands of New South Wales is a beautiful area, particularly in the autumnal months when, thanks to a high concentration of deciduous trees, its towns and fields glow with vibrant yellows and reds. Of the many spectacular sights to be seen during autumn, Gostwyck Chapel is the jewel in the crown. Nestled amongst majestic elms on the banks of a small creek, this little chapel breaks out into a stunning red at autumn's crescendo, drawing visitors from near and far.

Taken shortly after sunrise on a very cold morning, this photograph is an example of persistence. The weather over the previous days had been poor, offering mostly heavy rain and flat drab light. Consequently, there was a strong chance that I was going to leave without capturing the full glory of this wonderful little chapel. My third and final morning began with great promise, the wind was still, the sky was clear and light mist lingered in the air. As the sun rose over a small hill, it painted the scene with a wonderful golden light, blessing me with this spectacular image.

This beautiful panoramic photograph is available for purchase as a limited edition print. To place your order, simply click the 'Buy' button at the top of the page.

'Going to the Chapel', Gostwyck, New South Wales

Autumnal Light

Side Lighting

Side lighting, particularly during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset weaves a wonderful tapestry of light and shade. Softer and richer in colour than during the summer months, this gorgeous light accentuates the autumn colour, drawing out hidden textures and adding a depth to our images.

On my visit to the New England district I had the opportunity to photograph Gostwyk Chapel over several days in varying conditions. It wasn't until the third morning, as the sun rose over a nearby hill in a sky free of cloud that the early morning light brought life and depth to this special scene.

Midday Lighting

While I will often avoid photography in harsh midday lighting, due to intense highlights and near black shadows, it can actually bring out stunning colour in the right subject. Evenly lit deciduous trees with little shadow, like this little liquid amber near Myrtleford can work well.

Myrtleford, Victoria

Overcast Light

Overcast light is particularly beautiful for subjects which never experience the kiss of golden hour, set deep within a garden or forest and shrouded in shadow. The soft light filtering through the clouds and into the forest reduces the contrast, opening shadows and reducing bright highlights while bringing the scene within the capabilities of our sensors and film. Often, even our eyes will notice details which would have been otherwise missed in a scene bathed in brilliant sunlight and deep shadow.

Surrounded by towering gums and located at the end of a steep descent, the ornamental boat house and lake in the Alfred Nicholas Gardens on Mount Dandenong benefit greatly from soft overcast light. Captured on a cold May afternoon on the return leg of a trip to Tasmania, this shot reminds me of the patience required when photographing landscapes. Although the forecast called for a mostly overcast day, the clouds parted just as I took my first shot for the morning, ruining my exposure. I then spent hours waiting for a brief patch of cloud to pass overhead. When the clouds did finally return, the shadows were still so deep, I had to take a second exposure to bring out the details behind the fern on the left.

A Secret Garden, Dandenong Ranges Victoria, Australia, Landscape PhotographyA Secret Garden, Dandenong Ranges VICLocation : Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, Sherbrooke, Victoria, Australia

Photo ID : CM61799
Edition Size : 300

Nestled on Melbourne's fringe amongst the Dandenong Ranges, this delightful boathouse and ornamental lake are stunning features of the acclaimed Alfred Nicholas Gardens. Set deep within the grounds, visitors to this picturesque location are treated to a meandering journey amongst mountain ash, tree ferns, ginkos and liquid ambers. Beautiful throughout the year, the gardens are particular stunning in late autumn as its deciduous trees erupt in a blaze of yellow and red.

Disembarking the Spirit of Tasmania shortly after 6:30am on a cold autumn's morning, I took the opportunity to pass through the Dandenongs and visit Alfred Nicholas Gardens on my way home. A peace lingered in the crisp early morning air, broken only by the occasional call of distant birds. With the gardens to myself and beautiful soft light streaming through the towering mountain ash, I set off for the lake hoping to capture the essence of this magnificent location.

Surrounded by lush greens and vibrant shades of autumn, the boathouse was picture perfect, its reflection dancing majestically on the mirror like surface of the lake. Excited by the scene before me, I set up my camera behind a large tree fern and began my first exposure. As the required 45 seconds passed, brilliant sunlight burst through the clouds overexposing the scene and spoiling my first image. An hour or so then passed as the light continued to rise and fall, finally settling as an unbroken collection of cloud passed overhead. The light now perfect, I captured a wonderful memory of my morning in this beautiful garden.

This beautiful panoramic photograph is available for purchase as a limited edition print. To place your order, simply click the 'Buy' button at the top of the page.

'A Secret Garden', Alfred Nicholas Gardens, Victoria

Embrace Inclement Weather

The weather during autumn can be wet, wild and at times unpredictable. Although we have a natural aversion to getting wet and are likely to head for the nearest cafe when the heavens open, inclement weather has a wonderful way of clearing the air and unlocking an intense colour hidden in otherwise dry foliage and trunks. While heavy rain may make photography impossible, I like to wait it out under a large golf umbrella and, more often than not a break in the weather will appear. When the rain stops for that brief moment, my camera is already set up, allowing me to capture the scene, as I did one cold morning outside Beechworth gaol. After hours of waiting I finally had my shot, and a week later these trees had dropped their leaves.

Beechworth Gaol incidentally, is famous for its connection with Ned Kelly, his gang, family and friends. It looks beautiful during autumn, from the outside!

A Colourful Past, Beechworth Victoria, Landscape PhotographyA Colourful Past, Beechworth VICLocation : Beechworth Gaol, Beechworth Victoria, Australia

Photo ID : CM61793
Edition Size : 300

With the discovery of gold in February 1852, miners in their thousands descended upon Mayday Hills in search of their fortunes and a better life. By the mid 1860s, this once quiet grazing country was now the bustling government town of Beechworth, boasting a modern infrastructure including hospital, telegraph station, court house and gaol. Hosting a list of infamous figures including Ned Kelly, his mother Ellen and Harry Power the 'gentleman bushranger', Beechworth Gaol holds a special place in Australian folk lore. Now decommissioned, the towering sandstone walls serve as a lingering reminder of a harsher, more colourful time now fading into the twilight of history.

By late autumn the streets of Beechworth, lined with gorgeous deciduous trees had erupted in a blaze of spectacular yellows and reds. The morning though uncomfortably cold was one to remember, as overnight rain had saturated the autumn foliage now rustling and bowing in the swirling breeze. With showers still falling, I huddled under my umbrella as waves of golden leaves drifted to earth and the peaceful melody of hymns from a nearby church filled the air. By early afternoon as the showers eased and the autumn colours shimmered in the soft overcast light, past and present combined as I captured this timeless moment.

This beautiful panoramic photograph is available for purchase as a limited edition print. To place your order, simply click the 'Buy' button at the top of the page.
'A Colourful Past', Beechworth Victoria

More to Autumn than Leaves

With the vibrant displays of colour soon to erupt across our southern states, it is easy to forget the other opportunities which autumn offers. The high country for example, is a particularly wonderful place to visit during autumn. Snow gums shed their bark and when wet, offer their own spectacular show of colour. As the occasional cold front brings rain, wind, fog and the early sprinkling of snow, places like the Bogong High Plains, Hotham or Dinner Plain offer much to the photographer.

I have to confess I do have a special place in my heart for snow gums, in particular those around Wallace Hut on the Bogong High Plains. Sadly, the elements and years have taken their toll, and these old trees are now falling in heavy winds.

Seldom Seen, Wallace Hut, Falls Creek Victoria, Australia, Landscape PhotographySeldom Seen, Wallace Hut, Falls Creek VICLocation : Alpine National Park, Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia

Photo ID : CM61729
Edition Size : 300

Over 100 years have now passed since the Wallace brothers built this lonely little hut on the Bogong High Plains. Hidden from view, amongst a spectacular grove of gnarled and stunted snow gums, it provided shelter for the Wallace family during the spring and summer months, as their cattle grazed on the sweet grasses of the alpine meadows. A survivor of bush fires and raging blizzards, Wallace Hut is now the oldest surviving hut of the Victorian high country, and a national treasure.

It was late autumn, and a cold front was passing through North East Victoria, bringing with it wind, rain and very cold temperatures. The alpine grasses were shifting from green to brown, while the shedding snow gums were adorned with spectacular red highlights. Delighted by the scene before me, I set up my camera, huddled under my umbrella and waited patiently for the rain to ease. By late afternoon the constant rain had turned to showers, and a light mist had rolled across the high plains, creating this wonderful moment.

This beautiful panoramic photograph is available for purchase as a limited edition print. To place your order, simply click the 'Buy' button at the top of the page.

'Seldom Seen', Wallace Hut, Falls Creek, Victoria

Tripod and Cable Release

A tripod will give you a good study base for those longer exposures at sunrise, sunset and in overcast light. While a cable release will ensure you don't knock your camera while firing the shutter.

Remember, it is better to spend a few more dollars on a quality tripod which will withstand wind and the occasional bump. I won't forget the day I met another photographer who had just knocked over his flimsy tripod with a canon 5D MKIII on it. He then almost knocked it into Cradle Mountain's Dove Lake while talking to me. Sadly, his expensive camera wouldn't have been cheap to repair. Hopefully it was insured.

Try Shooting in Manual Mode

Taking creative control of your camera's exposure allows you to express your vision of the scene you are photographing. Try setting the aperture to a high number, bringing the entire scene into focus or a low number to take the background out of focus. Blurring the background can be incredibly effective when shooting individual leaves. Your LCD panel's histogram will quickly reveal the results allowing you to hone your exposure and technique. Your camera's manual will be a great place to learn about manual exposures.

Keeping Dry and Safe

I have made quite a number of mistakes over the years in wet weather, which have resulted in myself and my cameras becoming rather soaked. While this hasn't hurt my mechanical film cameras so far, the outcome for a digital camera may not look so good. These days I always carry a spare jacket, plastic bags and large golf umbrella. When going further afield into the high country, I also make sure I carry warm clothes a little food, drink and a personal locator beacon just in case.

Wandiligong, Victoria



As is often the case, there is a great satisfaction to be had in discovering new locations. When searching for potential subjects during autumn, don't forget to head out of town and explore the lesser known country roads. Often the best locations are out of the way and known to only a handful of souls. In some ways, it pays to get a little lost every now and again on this journey we call life, if we want to explore and experience the best it has to offer.

There are so many wonderful places to photograph during autumn. Here are a few of my favourite locations.

New South Wales :

  • Armidale
  • Gostwyck
  • Uralla

Tasmania :

  • Cradle Mountain

Victoria :

  • Beechworth
  • Bright
  • Mount Dandenong
  • Wandiligong
  • Yackandandah - which I am lucky to call home

Autumn is a time of inspiration for photographers, and I hope we all get some wonderful shots.

Written By Chris Munn

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Charles Hudspeth(non-registered)
Excellent photography. Appreciating the talent. Awaiting for these kinds of further photographer's inspirational posts from you.
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