In many parts of the United States, the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. Amateur and professional photographers are taking their cameras and heading toward wide-open fields, tree-covered mountains and lush valleys. But you don't have to travel long distances to get outstanding fall foliage pictures. In fact, for many people, excellent photos of this type can be taken in their own backyards.

Are you interested in capturing this year's fall foliage on film? Here are some tips to get you started:- Get up early. Few sights in nature are as beautiful and colorful as the backlit leaves of fall. To capture the leaves aglow in all their beauty, you need to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon.

- Shoot wide views and close-ups. It's easy to get overwhelmed at the sight of beautiful landscapes dotted with brilliantly colored trees. Sure, take wide-angle photographs. But also take close-ups of the leaves, perhaps floating on a pond or in a river or stream.

- Use foliage as a backdrop for portraits. Fall foliage provides a beautiful natural background for portraits. The key to a good outdoor fall portrait is to make your subject stand out from the background and not be overpowered by it. You can highlight your subject in several ways: Dressing him in colorful clothes; composing your picture with a minimal amount of background foliage; or using a flash to brighten your subject's face. A flash is especially important when you are taking portraits around dawn and dusk, when strong backlighting can cause the subject's photo to come out under-exposed.

- Pack accessories. Several accessories can enhance your pictures. These include: a color-enhancing filter, which produces the effect the name implies; a soft-focus filter, which can add an art-quality touch to your photographs; and a tripod, for steadying your camera during long exposures. The latter is very important when taking close-ups and when using a telephoto lens.

- Compose carefully. When framing a picture, imagine one of the differences in the work between a painter and a photographer. A painter thinks about what he will put on canvas. On the other hand, a photographer has to decide what part of the scene to eliminate. This is an important point to remember when composing fall foliage pictures because they often look too busy when the photographer attempted to include too much of the scene.