Northern Vermont: Hazens Notch
Nikon F100 | Fujichrome Film 1500 100
#1: Autumn color usually moves from north to south and from west to east across New England. The hardwood forests on Mount Mansfield and Jay Peak, up near the Canadian border, begin to turn yellow, orange, and red as early as the third week in September. By mid-October, autumn has reached Pennsylvania. By the third week of October, the peak of color touches Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, then spreads down the Blue Ridge Parkway and into the Great Smoky Mountains and southern Vermont. Start your explorations in the area of Stowe, Vermont, around Rutland or Woodstock, and work your way south to the Massachusetts state line.
Finger Lakes of New York: Letchworth State Park
Nikon D300s | 24-120 mm Lens | f/8 @ 1/40 | ISO 400
#2: The Finger Lakes region is filled with a dozen long, deep, and narrow lakes and is one of the more beautiful parts of western New York State. Autumn’s foliage season in this part of the Northeast is typically from October 5 through October 20. A large loop of the Finger Lakes region will take a week to ten days. Stay off the Interstate Highways and travel east and west on State Route 20, connecting all the small towns located at the north ends of most of the Finger Lakes.
The Blue Ridge Parkway: South of Asheville, North Carolina
Nikon D300s | 24 mm Lens | f/16 @ 1/8
#3: Hundreds of different species of hardwoods line the 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Many of these trees begin the process of preparing for winter at different times. Prevailing weather patterns greatly influence the appearance of fall foliage. Starting in late September and lasting well into October, an autumn color season can last three to four weeks. Along the northern stretch of the Parkway, the peak of autumn color usually arrives around October 15th.
The Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania: Double Run Nikon D300s | 15-30 mm Lens
f/16 @ 1/8 | ISO 200
#4: Start your explorations from the city of Warren, Pennsylvania, on the north side of the Allegheny National Forest around the second week in October. Continue on to State Route 220 and to World’s End State Park. To improve your autumn color photography, find a spot where the color reflects in a lake or a stream.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio: Sylvan Lake
Nikon D300s | 24-120 mm Lens
f/5.6 @ 1/160 | ISO 200
#5: Covering 33,000 acres, Ohio’s only national park is the third-smallest park in the system, yet ranks as one of the ten-most-visited national parks. Starting around the third week in April, the first leaves appear on trees. Wildflowers start to appear. By late May, spring changes to summer and the park becomes hot and humid, with frequent thunderstorms and hazy skies. Fall offers some relief from the heat, as nights cool and leaves begin to turn red and yellow for the annual display of fall colors, usually peaking around the third week of October.
North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona: Wotan’s Throne at Sunrise
Nikon D300s | 10-20 mm Lens | f/11 @ 1/8 | ISO 200
#6: Autumn color on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a great reason to visit Arizona in late September. Panoramic Grand Canyon vistas can be photographed from new angles under a variety of lighting conditions. On the North Rim, you can find dramatic overlooks above spectacular displays of geology that are visited by very few people. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a thousand feet higher than the South Rim, with a much shorter summer and fall season. The North Rim’s visitor facilities are open from mid-May through mid-October.
The Palouse, Washington
Nikon D300s | 24-120 mm Lens | f/6.3 @ 1/1000 | ISO 400
#7: By early July, rolling hills across The Palouse, in the southeastern corner of the state of Washington, are covered with golden waves of tall wheat and barley. The harvest of wheat begins in the south and moves north through early August. By mid-September, sweeping lines cut by tractors crisscross the hills and the golden colors of mown fields paint The Palouse.
Napa Valley Wine Country, California: Dry Creek Vineyards
Nikon D300s | 24-120 mm Lens | f/10 @ 1/160 | ISO 200
#8: By late October, the vineyards across the Napa and Sonoma Valleys of northern California have turned yellow. By the second week of November, the remaining leaves change to shades of red. The Napa Valley runs southeast to northwest, with Highway 29 as the Wine Country highway, from Vallejo at the southern end, through the town of Yountville and on to Calistoga in the north. The grape harvest usually occurs in mid-September. By late October, grape leaves that are still on the vine have turned yellow. By early November, leaves begin to turn red.
For more detailed information on photographing in any of these locations, explore Photograph America Newsletter, a 12-page travel newsletter for photographers, published since 1989. Each issue of the newsletter describes in detail where to photograph North American landscapes, wildlife, hidden waterfalls, remote beaches, slot canyons, wildlife migrations, and much more. Learn where, when, and how to discover the best nature photography in America.
by Robert Hitchman, Photograph America
Text and photos: © 2011 Robert Hitchman. All Rights Reserved.