The First Looks of Fall

Conservationist and Nature Photographer, Ian Shive, brings us some spectacular images to celebrate this week's Autumnal Equinox.

September 22, 2020

Photo By: Ian Shive / USFWS

Photo By: Ian Shive / USFWS

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

Photo By: Ian Shive

A caribou! He only gave me a quick pause before he snorted and ran off the other direction, rejoining his herd in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Getting up in the air in a small airplane with the door removed, it felt like a dream to fly over Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine. The deep blue of the sky reflecting off the lake surrounded by the rolling hills and mountains dressed up in their best fall colors meant that I'd have hundreds of images to comb through that evening, but this was my favorite.

Almost abstract, this view from the air of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska takes on an almost painterly look, with dashes of yellow streaking through the tundra. Unfortunately this beautiful national wildlife refuge is under threat as the current administration pushes ahead with plans to allow gas and oil companies to drill.

At first glance this looks more like something you would see in the arctic in Alaska, but it's actually in Maine. This aerial view of a tributary meandering through the patchwork of color has such a dynamic range, that it almost doesn't look real. This tributary feeds Moosehead Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the United States.

New England gets a lot of the glory for being one of the best places to experience autumn, but the midwest is easily just as good and not nearly as crowded with "leaf peepers," the name given to tourists who travel just to see great fall colors. As a photographer, I love the autumn because the cool nights and warm days often put a layer of fog on the ponds and lakes, as they did this particular morning in the Headwaters Wilderness of Northern Wisconsin.

The Mt. Nebo Loop Scenic Byway crosses the Uinta National Forest between Nephi and Payson, Utah. It climbs 9,000 feet in elevation and provides views of Wasatch Mountains and Mt. Nebo, the tallest mountain in the Wasatch Range in the Uinta National Forest. It's great for hiking, but if you just want a scenic drive, this is one of the best in the nation.

Fall in Alaska offers a different opportunity than many other places in the lower 48 states. The topography of the landscape often isn't dominated by trees, but rather, low lying areas such as taiga and tundra. Those areas, too, change colors, much like you would see in the hardwood forests of Maine or Wisconsin, but they offer a different sort of look and feel, such as in this image made in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Kodiak Island, Alaska.

I've actually photographed this exact same spot in Greenville, Maine more than once and years apart. Of the two compositions, which are almost identical, this one is by far my favorite. The differences are subtle, but the defining factor that made me choose this particular frame is the way the autumn colors on the distant mountains pop out with the last bit of light of the day. I think I've always been attracted to this spot because of the symmetry of the three rocks and the three hills in the distance.

There is simply nothing more beautiful than Telluride, Colorado during the peak of the fall colors. The birch and aspen trees become a bright golden color and twinkle and shake in even the slightest breeze. I used an ultra wide fish eye lens for this image to help pull all the energy of the trees towards the center of the frame.

Every photograph I take easily conjures up a memory, and this one stands out as exceptional. It was the heart of autumn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and the evening of Halloween. This was the last photo I took for the day, focusing on the scattered leaves on the rocks and the quiet rush of the Little River, which flows through the park. The air was cool and filled with the smell of fresh lit fireplaces. It's a great memory I shared with my mom, just the two of us, walking the trails and getting lost in the season, only to retreat to nearby Asheville, NC for an evening of festivities.

Straddling the line between Maine and New Hampshire, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is easily one of the most peaceful places I have ever spent time. The only sounds are those of the occasional loon "woo woo wooo woooooo" echoing off the still waters or the gentle dip of a paddle as you take your canoe to a backcountry campsite.

I'll never forget this morning in early October when the entire summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine became enveloped in fog. I literally ran from spot to spot, trying to find the perfect balance of autumn colors and lichen covered rocks before the heat of the rising sun burned it all off. The image may evoke peace and calm, but the rush to try and capture the fog meant a busy, sweaty morning for me.

There's something about the framing of this photo that I've always loved, with the few strands of grass silhouetted against the light of the rising sun forcing the fog to retreat into the shadows. This lake in northern Maine, for me, just seems to embody the word "peace."

It's hard to tell that this is autumn, but the specks of color along an area known as "the subway" in Zion National Park, Utah offer a little clue. Fall is one of the best times to visit this national park, as the colors shift and the heat of summer subsides.

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