Photographer’s Guide to Fall Foliage


Nothing gets outdoor photographers more excited than watching the mountains change their summer coats to the colors of autumn. Every active photographer has their lens pointed at the canyon; but check out the best locations and some tips from one of Wasatch’s photographers before you head up.


Guardsman Pass, passing through Brighton to Park City up Big Cottonwood, is the ideal spot. Erupting in fiery fall colors, various look-out points make it a prime location for landscape photography. The density of the pine trees and sharp edge of the mountain peaks contrast with the oranges and reds of the leaves. Guardsman Pass also includes a diversity of lake hikes surrounded by a rainbow of trees for those looking for a photo adventure.

Or, you can stop about half-way up Big Cottonwood at the S-Curve, an ideal line to shoot autumn leaves winding down the canyon. Constant streams running along the edge of the road are easily accessible and contain miniature waterfalls that can add movement to your photo. The most convenient access to cottonwood streams runs along the Broads Fork Trail. This is an easy, family-friendly hike (for all ages) and follows an almost-entirely paved path. The stream sets an ideal composition with its overhang of trees on either end.

Photo credit: Mack Mensinger


When shooting, lighting can either make your image explode in color or blend into a smear of shades. Outdoor photography lighting is dependent on the time of day and cloud coverage. Best times to go are during the golden hours; immediately before, during, and after sunset or sunrise. If the sun is hiding, do not fret — cloudy skies produce gorgeous lighting against the bright fall leaves. Your exposures and shutter speeds will depend on the time of day you are shooting, but the model white balance during autumn is normally set to cloudy.

Whether you’re an amateur, professional, or just an adventurer with a phone camera, the autumn season is the prime time to get out there, taste the fall air, and shoot.


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