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Desert Gold
Photographing Fall Colors in Utah's Desert
by Theresa A. Husarik

When one thinks of fall colors, that image conjured up is usually of a location somewhere in the NorthEast US. Nobody really think of the desert. But don't forget that deserts have oases, and those oases can produce some stunning color that rival those of the east.

    fall along the virgin

  1. Look for the Water
    Desert vegetation tends to congregate, and sometimes be downright abundant around a desert river or stream. You'll find cottonwoods lining the banks which will turn a brilliant gold during fall's prime time.
    More around the water images.

  2. Be Ready for Prime Time
    fall leaves in rock Depending on the area, Prime Time will differ. In Zion National Park, Prime time actually lasts the longest of any of the other areas because of the varying altitudes and tree species in the park. In Zion Canyon, the oaks and maples tend to peak earlier (late October), and the cottonwoods not till November. In lower and more open areas such as Arches National Park or Canyonlands, the peak will be sometime late September to early October. Check with the National Park Service or the BLM for the specifics of the area you're interested in.

    fall leaves in rock

  3. Look in Out-of-the-Way Places
    You'd be surprised what lurks in the crevices. Look for places where leaves might collect after being scattered by the wind or rain.
    More out-of-the-way images.

  4. Use a Polarizer
    to reduce the glare that might be shining off of wet leaves which will in effect saturate your colors and make the leaves look vibrant.

  5. Simplify
    fall leaves Look for scenes where the color is a background element and the actual subject is somthing very simple like the branches of a tree that are flowing in beautiful, simple lines.
    More simplified images.

  6. Look for Details
    fall leaves in rock Some of the most beautiful images are found in the small details. Look for fallen leaves on sand or rocks, or small vegetation growing in odd places.
    More detail images

  7. Look for Late Blooming Flowers
    fall leaves in rock Several types of flowering plants bloom in the fall. They can add some wonderful color to an otherwise monotoned landscape in a vegetation-challenged desert. More late-bloomin' images

  8. Try Optical Extraction
    Using a telephoto lense, "extract" a small element out of a distant scene.

  9. Photograph Color for Color's Sake
    Zion NP Sometimes the color is the thing that makes the picture, and without color, the image would be bland.

  10. Look for Weather
    fall leaves in rock Autumn skies can appear pretty menacing at times, and that makes for some very interesting lighting conditions and cloud formations.

Check out my fall photo gallery on ExploreUtah.com

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