Capturing Macro Autumn Leaves

Like many photographers, I am currently unable to travel and work as I normally would. Instead, I’ve been looking at nature photography opportunities at home and this is something I can share with other photographers in similar circumstances.

In 2020, FUJIFILM launched the new EF-60 Shoe Flash. When combined with the new EF-W1 Wireless Commander, multiple flash units can be used remotely thus opening up a range of opportunities for creative lighting. Together with the XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens, I decided to revisit an autumn leaves project from a little while back.

FUJIFILM X-H1+ XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F8, ISO 200, 1/30 sec.

We are well into our autumn season, temperatures are steadily falling and daylight hours are shortening. This triggers the process of abscission in deciduous trees. Leaves that are no longer producing chlorophyll and feeding the tree are shed to help the tree conserve water and energy. 

The lush green colour of summer decays and transforms into a beautiful mix of reds, yellows and orange colours. It’s easy to see why autumnal woodland scenes are always popular with landscape photographers!

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F18, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.

As well as photographing a ‘grand vista’ autumnal landscape, we can also use our camera and a macro lens, together with some strategically placed lighting to reveal the fascinating detailed structure of leaves and the colours of their decay.

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F18, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.

Getting Set Up

The key to this set-up is to use the flash off-camera, placed behind the leaf and positioned so it is pointing towards the lens. The leaves need a semi-translucent platform to rest upon and also to diffuse the light from the flash. I used a chopping board I found in a supermarket, but you could use plastic containers or a clear glass surface with some paper which will help diffuse the light. 

I used two water bottles to raise the platform and make space underneath for the flash. The camera and lens were on a tripod pointing directly down towards the leaf. I used a remote for the shutter release to camera movement and shake.

FUJIFILM X-H1+ XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F18, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.

Camera and Flash Settings

I prefer to use full manual control for the camera and flash. Depth of field is incredibly shallow when you are working close-up with macro lenses, so I used f/11 to f/16 for these photographs. This helps keep the uneven surface areas of the leaves in focus. My shutter speeds were 1/1000th of a second and I controlled the exposure by adjusting the flash power via the Wireless Commander (EF-W1).

I am an absolute novice when it comes to flash, I just don’t use it for my normal wildlife photography. So, I have to confess. This is the first time I have used any sort of flash on my Fujifilm cameras! I found a way that worked for me but others more experienced may well find improvements.

If you are focusing manually, check to see if your camera has a focus peaking option. This focusing aid uses coloured highlights to identify areas that are in focus.

There are a few factors that affect exposure and how much flash power is needed. These will be the colour of the leaves, the translucence of the material you use as a platform and the distance between the leaf and the flash.

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F18, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.


Experimenting with different film simulations and white balance settings can have dramatic effects on the colours. Also, moving the flash off-centre can create darker areas of shadow.

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F13, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.


  • Leaves that are too dry will begin to break up when they are handled
  • Although we are looking for decay, select leaves which are whole and still in good condition
  • You can use small pieces of tape around the edges of the leaves to keep them flat
  • Move the platform around and try and fill the viewfinder with the leaf
  • If you don’t have a suitable flash, try a conventional lightbulb as a continuous source of light. A timer can also be used instead of a remote release.

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro - F18, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec.