One of the biggest advantages to living on Long Island is having access to some of the best beaches on the entire East Coast. While those beaches are typically packed with sun-worshippers during the summer, they’re virtually empty in the fall—making them the perfect spot to enjoy the sights and sounds of the shore, as well as snap a few photos of the entire family.
Perhaps best of all, the above locations are free to visit (small fee at Bayard Cutting Arboretum) so there’s no strain on tight budgets and all are among the most relaxing places Long Island has to offer.
For more family-friendly events and activities, be sure to check out our Long Island Events Calendar.
Cedar Beach, Babylon, NY
A volleyball haven from May to September, Cedar Beach in Babylon offers an excellent vantage point for some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see this time of year. With the poplar Beach Hut restaurant open throughout the month of October, once the sun sets and you put the camera away, you can grab a bite to eat and also enjoy some great live music every Friday-Sunday.
• Bring along a tripod if you have one: The steadier the camera, the better the shot, especially since you may want zoom in close to really capture the stunning colors.
• Instead of relying on your camera’s auto mode or even using the “sunset” mode feature many of today’s cameras include, you may find that this is an ideal time to switch your camera into aperture or shutter priority mode and take a variety of shots at different exposures. The nice thing about shooting sunsets is that there is no “right” exposure and experimenting can often produce some great results.
Fire Island Lighthouse, Captree Island, NY
Open year-round, this 168-foot tall structure, a circular ring of brinks and stone overlooking Captree Island, has been a beacon for boaters for almost 160 years. The Fire Island Lighthouse also acts as a gateway to Fire Island National Sea Shore, as the quaint little town of Kismet sits less than a mile to the east. Shooting lighthouses is a lot of fun and the setting for this one makes for a terrific day of photography. Sitting between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, you’re treated to some stunning backdrops no matter the direction you capture it from.
• While lighthouses generally look good photographed at any time of day, we think the Fire Island Lighthouse is best captured in the glow of morning light or later in the evening, just as the sun has set, capturing the final shades just before darkness falls.
• A slow shutter speed might work nicely, especially if that marine haze/fog, common in the fall, is present.
Gardiner Park, Brightwaters, NY
A well-kept secret here on the South Shore in Suffolk County is West Bay Shore’s Gardiner Park. Just south of Montauk Highway, the park’s many nature trails provide some beautiful photo opps this time of year, as leaves begin to turn and the colors begin to burst. A quick walk down the trail that leads to the bay also provides some wonderful panoramas of the Robert Moses Bridge and the Fire Island Lighthouse off in the distance.
• Midday sun is always a bit too harsh for capturing the beauty of landscapes, as it often washes out the color you’re trying to capture. Try shooting later in the day when the sun is low in the sky as it creates more interesting side lighting, adding some much needed depth and scale.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River, NY
A beautiful place to simply spend a day walking around, Great River’s Bayard Cutting Arboretum provides some amazing photo opps and is a truly excellent place to shoot your family holiday cards. While not exactly a beach, this beautiful arboretum sits along the South Shore’s Great South Bay and enjoys some breathtaking water views. There are numerous fall photo shows and tours, but just parking the car and taking a stroll provides all the splendor you’ll need to capture some amazing family photos.
• Capturing good portraits is as much about making sure your subjects are relaxed and having fun, as it is about the right lighting and camera settings. Keep the mood loose and your subjects will beam.
• Your subject’s eyes should always be the focal point of a portrait shoot as they remain the sharpest facial element there is.
• Fill that frame with the beauty the setting offers and make sure there are no power lines, signs and any other unwanted objects that will take the focus away from the subject and the beautiful parts of the landscape you picked the spot for in the first place.
Enjoy the day and happy clicking!