Why fall is the best time to travel for nature photographers

by | 19 Jun 2023

Are you a budding nature photographer, always in search of the perfect shot? Well we’ve selected some of the best October vacations for you to embrace the vibrant colors, crisp air and unique lighting conditions of the fall.

With the ‘golden hour’ and ‘blue hour’ at their richest, fall offers a tantalizing additional visual element to your nature photography. And in October you’ll also benefit from a comfortable climate for outdoor shooting, with pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds, providing ample opportunities to explore and capture stunning pictures.


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The golden hour refers to the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset. This is when the sun is low in the sky, casting a warm and golden hue across the landscape. During fall, the angle of the sun becomes lower, creating longer shadows and accentuating the rich, warm seasonal colors. The golden hour also becomes longer this time of year.

This dramatic lighting not only enhances the natural beauty of landscapes but also adds depth and dimension to photographs. And, as fall foliage turns leaves vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, this when combined with the soft, warm light of the golden hour, offers nature photographers a unique opportunity to capture some spectacular images.

For further seasonal reading: Mellow fruitfulness: where to find the authentic flavors of fall


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While the golden hour is famous among photographers, the blue hour often goes unnoticed. Occurring just before sunrise or after sunset, as the sky transitions from twilight to darkness, the blue hour is characterized by a deep blue and slightly surreal lighting condition.

When complemented by the warm hues of fall, the resulting contrast can be truly striking. Photographing serene lakes, mist-covered valleys, or even urban cityscapes during the blue hour of autumn can yield stunning images. Each conveying a sense of tranquility and otherworldliness.

You may also be interested in: The sustainable benefits of traveling in the off-season



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Tuscany’s hills and vineyards transform into a mesmerizing palette of colors during autumn, creating a romantic, picturesque setting for photographers The golden and blue hours serve to enhance Tuscany’s iconic sights, such as the Val d’Orcia and the Chianti region.

Sunrise and sunset casts a magical glow on the medieval towns and hilltop villages, making this one of the best October vacations for nature photography enthusiasts.

Discover this on: Easy Pace Italy


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Yosemite National Park in California is a photographer’s dream. In the fall, the park’s iconic granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls and lush forests are framed by vibrant colors. The changing fall foliage offering endless opportunities for stunning images.

Discover this on: Best of California


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Renowned for its warm welcome any time of year, Ireland in the fall gets even warmer with rich red hues. The country’s rugged coastline, castles and hills create a captivating backdrop for capturing the Emerald Isle’s charm and mystical atmosphere. Bathed in the soft, warm light of the golden hour and blue hour, iconic sights like the Cliffs of Moher and the enchanting Ring of Kerry radiate an intensified beauty.

Experience it for yourself: Country Roads of Ireland

Drink in the season: Georg Lang: The visionary who revolutionized Munich’s Oktoberfest


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Dramatic mountain ranges, pristine lakes, charming alpine villages and forested hills. The fall offers the perfect weather, fall foliage and lighting conditions to capture iconic sights like the Matterhorn, Jungfraujoch, and the serene Lake Geneva.

Combine this with warm fondue, exceptional chocolate and some famous Swiss hospitality and you’re looking at one of the best October vacations for nature photographers.

Take me there: Magical Switzerland

Bookmark for later: Why you should visit Switzerland in the off season, by this Travel Director


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Unique geological formations, known as hoodoos, found in Bryce Canyon National Park are a spectacular subject for nature photography. The warm, soft glow on the crimson and orange rocks, creates a surreal and otherworldly atmosphere.

Capturing the contrast between the blue sky and vibrant hoodoos during the golden and blue hours results in stunning photographs Key sights like Sunset Point and Inspiration Point provide panoramic vistas that are particularly captivating during sunrise and sunset.

Discover it in style: Enchanting Canyonlands


Plan ahead: Research the exact timing of the golden hour and blue hour in your location using apps or online tools. Remember the timing varies depending on your location and time of year.

Carefully choose your subject and location: Look for subjects that will be enhanced by the light of the golden hour. This includes landscapes, architecture and flora and fauna. The warm light makes fall colors more vibrant, and the softness adds a dreamy quality to plants and animals.

Ideal for the blue hour are cityscapes, nightscapes, water reflections and silhouettes. Whether a person, tree or landmark, strong outlines against the blue background produce powerful, visually striking images and mirror-like reflections.

Spring break: Where to go to find Europe’s best cherry blossom displays

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Capture warm colors and set the white balance: Embrace the golden tones and soft, warm backlighting during the golden hour, creating a dreamy, atmospheric effect in your photographs. Set your camera’s white balance to “Cloudy” or “Shade” mode to enhance the warmth of the scene.

During blue hour, adjusting the white balance is crucial to ensure accurate color reproduction. Experiment with different settings to achieve the desired atmosphere in your images. Start with the “Auto” white balance setting. And be prepared to switch to the “Tungsten” or “Incandescent” white balance presets if your images appear too warm.

We’d recommend: 7 benefits you’ve likely never considered for traveling in the off season

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Experiment with composition during the golden hour: Take advantage of the warm, directional light to create depth, add texture and emphasize patterns in your composition. Utilize the rule of thirds, leading lines, and foreground interest to create visually engaging compositions. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the most compelling shot.

Use the ambient light of blue hour creatively: The limited light available during the blue hour can be used creatively to add drama and depth to your images. Look for opportunities to incorporate existing light sources, such as streetlights or illuminated buildings. Experiment with longer shutter speeds to capture the motion of moving lights, such as car trails or starbursts from streetlights.

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.