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June Gladen of Bemidji captured the brilliance of the fall colors in northwest Minnesota.

Picture perfect Autumn in Minnesota

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Picture perfect Autumn in Minnesota
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Remember how -- last year -- you remarked about how great those fall color pictures you were viewing looked? And how you said then, "Next year we need to get out and see them for ourselves?"

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Well, this is next year...and it's time you make some beautiful fall pictures for yourself.

Warm, sunny days and cool nighttime temperatures mark the appearance of fall colors across Minnesota.

The brilliant colors of fall inspire us to try to capture some of these beautiful images with our camera. But too often, the great scene we saw doesn't translate into a great photo. But with a little extra thought and care, we casual photographers can catch some of the magic of fall in our pictures.

Here are some tips from Explore Minnesota Tourism photographer Paul Stafford. You have seen Paul's fabulous photo work on commercials, in magazines and on billboards in and around Minnesota.

Paul says, "Photos of fall landscapes need something significant to catch the eye, such as a figure, a prominent physical feature, a condition of light, or a special splash of color. Good landscape images often require two or more visits to find the right viewpoint and the right time of day to photograph the scene."

Try some of these ideas for composition and lighting:

l Show depth in landscapes by putting elements in the foreground, middle distance and background. The eye travels to a light spot in a picture, so try to place one deep in your composition.

n Frame your subject with branches or other elements in the foreground to call attention to it.

n To avoid a static, symmetrical look, set up off-balanced compositions. Place the focus of interest away from the center of the photograph.

n Shoot early and late in the day. Early morning and late afternoon light turns a golden color, bathing everything it strikes in a warm glow.

n Try using a polarizing filter, which deepens blue skies and enriches fall colors by removing glare and reflections in shiny leaves.

Minnesota's fall color reports are gathered from information provided by color observers in Minnesota's state parks.

Because the colorful fall show is the result of more than leaf color, these reports include some extras like information about the changing fall colors among the native grasses and wildflowers, notes on birds, butterflies and other wildlife that are migrating or preparing for winter. There is also a listing of the berries, nuts and fruits that are ripe for harvesting.

Typically, colors peak in along the Canadian border in mid to late September. Peak colors come to the northern third of Minnesota the last week in September or early October. The following weekends bring peak colors in central Minnesota including the Twin Cities area. On average, the southern and southeastern part of the state should have good color through the third week in October.

"The fall color season always brings visitors out to enjoy the scenic beauty of Minnesota state parks," said Courtland Nelson, director of the Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation. "Since most of the 72 state parks and recreation areas are open to the public year round, people have the opportunity for recreation and relaxation in all seasons."

Nelson cites another major factor that helps boost visitation -- fewer bugs and mosquitoes. "Campers especially appreciate the lower bug levels in fall," Nelson said. "If the string of good weather continues, I expect our campgrounds will continue to see good business this fall."

Nelson also recommends a midweek visit to state parks this fall. "On weekends, our parks are usually pretty busy in the fall," said Nelson. "If you want to spend a more quiet time in the park, come during the week if you can. During the week, camping is more available and you likely will not need a reservation."

Visitors from several surrounding states flock to Minnesota each fall to enjoy the spectacular fall colors and the potential of capturing a special memory on film. The first couple of years I tried to capture the beautiful fall colors on my camera, I managed some fabulous close-ups of my finger. I now use Paul Stafford's suggestions for photographing fall colors and have increasingly eliminated my finger from the photos.

You can also follow the progress of the fall colors in Minnesota be checking the state tourism website at www.exploreminnesota.com.

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