Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #7

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“Red leaves deserve special attention, because their color results from chemical changes a bit different from those coloring other leaves. Most of us know that shorter days result in less chlorophyll and thus less green color in leaves. Unmasked by green, the yellows and oranges in leaves are more visible to us. But there’s something else going on with reds and purples. The same pigment that puts the red in apples and cherries is produced under some conditions in the leaves of some trees, like maples. The pigment is anthocyanin, and its production depends on sunlight, rainfall, and weather, unlike the chemicals responsible for yellow, gold, and orange coloration, which remain more or less consistent from year to year. Cool (but not freezing) nights and sunny days favor anthocyanin production, so some years the fall foliage will be redder than in others.”

This is the seventh post in my autumn series of new photos from Oakland Cemetery. For the galleries below, I assembled images where red is the dominant color, including these nandina that had produced large clusters of orange and red berries. I took these in mid- or late-November; it seems that the berry clusters spraying from the center of each plant deepen in color as fall progresses, and the leaves — since we’ve had only a couple of days of below freezing weather — are still going strong.

Here are a few isolated red subjects. I only got a couple usable shots of the grasses in the second row — with tiny seedlings turning from light red toward burgundy — as the slightest breeze threw them out of focus. But I was glad to get these two since the plants aren’t very hardy and have since withered away with later fall.

These are all photos from the same maple tree, where I spent an hour or so trying out different combinations of lighting and backgrounds, including some backgrounds that were lit brightly enough to create a bit of dissonance between the way we normally see foregrounds versus backgrounds. I might try some more experiments like that; it’s a fun challenge to get the right levels of light and shadow in the image (they tend to look blown out in the camera) so that you can (sort of) reverse the relationships between front and back in Lightroom.

This is a somewhat random collection of reds, plants and trees on different parts of the cemetery property, with a few backlit subjects in the middle of the gallery. The last image is my favorite; the contrasting reds and greens reminded me of a poinsettia, and transitioning from autumn to the Christmas holidays.

My previous autumn 2019 photo mash-ups, and a few other posts with new fall color photos, are here:

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #4

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #5

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #6

Four Small Signs of Early Fall

More Small Signs of Early Fall

Even More Small Signs of Early Fall

Autumn Tints at Twilight

Burnt Orange and Singed Pumpkin

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Leave a comment

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #6

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“Most of us know that shorter days result in less chlorophyll and thus less green color in leaves. Unmasked by green, the yellows and oranges in leaves are more visible to us.”

This is the sixth post in my autumn series of new photos from Oakland Cemetery. In the previous one, Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #5, I mentioned that I had separated some of the remaining photos by color into two sets of galleries, one set where orange is the dominant color and one set where red dominates. I’m still working on the red photos; below are the orange galleries.

The last three photos in this first gallery aptly demonstrate what’s described in the quote above from Seeing Trees: the gradual decrease in chlorophyl that comes with shorter fall days, to reveal orange replacing green in the color of the leaves. I didn’t know until I researched it a bit, that autumn orange (and yellow) color variations are created by this different mechanism from reds — which require the production of a specific chemical (anthocyanin).

Orange color — leaning toward red — was especially intense in the first two photos in this gallery; the remaining photos show variations in yellow-to-orange on different days and in the shadows of several larger trees nearby.

These seven photos take advantage of backlighting on a very sunny day, which gives the leaves a glow but with a brightness level that tends to blow out detail in the camera and in the unprocessed RAW file. In Lightroom, I’m able to recover much of the detail by reducing highlights as far as possible using Lightroom’s basic develop settings, using a graduated filter across the entire image to reduce highlights a second time, then adjusting whites, blacks, and (especially) shadows to add color and brightness back without blowing out the highlights again. These changes help emphasize the foreground colors while keeping the sense that the leaves are glowing in the sun.

My previous autumn 2019 photo mash-ups, and a few other posts with new fall color photos, are here:

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #4

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #5

Four Small Signs of Early Fall

More Small Signs of Early Fall

Even More Small Signs of Early Fall

Autumn Tints at Twilight

Burnt Orange and Singed Pumpkin

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #5

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“Creativity, by common definition, is the production of things both novel and useful; whereas representation in photography, quite literally, is the re-presenting of something already in existence. In the context of photography, therefore, representation is accomplished primarily through technology and skill, and a fortuitous convergence of ‘right’ place and ‘right’ time. Creativity requires something beyond objective qualities that are inherent in subject, tools, or circumstances — something subjective originating from the unique mind of the photographer that would not have existed had they not created it.”

From Beyond Auto Mode: A Guide to Taking Control of Your Photography by Jennifer Bebb:

The camera … is merely the tool we use to create our images and, like any tool, needs input to be used most effectively. Setting a camera on a pre-determined mode, such as ‘portrait,’ is akin to a carpenter setting a saw to cut and walking away from the machine. The saw doesn’t know what result the carpenter is looking for, it is merely one part of the process. The same is true with your camera — it cannot know what you want to do, it can merely guess based on the settings you choose….

“The camera makes decisions designed to best suit the way it’s been programmed, not necessarily the best settings for the specific images you want to make. The camera doesn’t care how your photograph looks, it simply uses a pre-determined formula that satisfies a set of criteria that likely has nothing to do with the photo you are creating. 

“Making better photographs is about taking control of your camera settings and deciding how you want your images to look. It’s about moving beyond the automatic modes.

This is the fifth post in my autumn series of new photos from Oakland Cemetery. Last year at about this time, I took all of my fall photographs using one of my camera’s automatic modes, mostly because unrelenting rainstorms limited the number of outdoor photography days to just a few, and I was so inexperienced using manual settings that I wasn’t confident enough to step off the automatic approach. This year — after having spent so much time using manual mode on my garden macros — I didn’t use the automatic settings at all, so I could get more practice with manual mode on landscape-style photography. The second book I quoted above — Beyond Auto Mode — has some excellent tutorials on making the shift from automatic to manual, along with practical exercises for use in the field.

One of the clever tricks I got from the book was this: instead of using any of the automatic modes, take shots of a subject with the camera’s program mode — which will set the shutter speed and aperture to what the camera believes is optimal exposure for the scene. Make a mental note of the shutter speed and aperture the camera selected, then switch to manual mode and initially set it to those same two values. If you took shots using these settings (and the lighting stayed about the same), you would get equivalent images from program mode and manual mode, since the shutter speed and aperture are the same. Now, look through the camera’s viewfinder and think about how you might change the result, considering things like this:

  1. The camera’s program mode reacts to a scene by creating a balance between light and dark elements, regardless of the fine detail in the scene, some of which may get lost in its determination of optimal exposure. Still, its chosen settings will help you understand how much overall light you have available, which is what matters most when you switch to manual. If, for example, program mode chose a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second and an aperture of f/9 — well, you’ve got a lot of light to work with.
  2. Take the shot; you may delete it later but take it so you can use it for comparison. Switch the camera to manual mode, and set the shutter speed and aperture to the values the camera selected for program mode. Change the initial aperture setting from (in this example) f/9 to f/11 or f/13, which will increase the depth of field — effectively bringing more of the scene into focus. Depending on your camera’s capabilities, you may see the effect through the viewfinder or you may need to press the camera’s depth of field preview button to see the difference — and see how much of the image behind the actual focus point is made clearer by the higher aperture setting. With most of the images in the gallery below, I wanted as much foreground-to-background detail as possible, more than program mode would automatically include.
  3. Since increasing the aperture setting reduces the amount of light coming into the camera’s sensor, you may need to now lower the shutter speed to bring the light back up. Whether or not you can lower the shutter speed, and how much you can lower it, depends on the circumstances: for images like those below, there were plenty of stationery elements but the shutter speed had to be high enough to freeze any wind-movement of leaves on the trees. A shutter speed of 1/100 seemed to work well with a light breeze, though that still required a steady hand and was too low when the wind picked up. Short version: you want a higher aperture setting to increase focus or detail, combined with a shutter speed that’s fast enough to stop motion blur.
  4. Creative control comes from practice, but also benefits from familiarity with your equipment and on some awareness of the capabilities of post-processing software like Lightroom. Knowing that you can recover detail from shadows or highlights gives you greater flexibility in the field, especially if you’ve used your camera and lenses enough to know how much you can overexpose or underexpose — keeping an eye on the camera’s exposure meter or histogram — and get acceptable results. Two of the lenses I use most often (a macro lens and an 18-250 mm zoom lens) capture detail in the shadows very well when I underexpose, and seem to render better color than if I overexpose. All of the images in the galleries below were technically underexposed, in part to reduce the effect of the bright sunlight, then I lightened the shadows in Lightroom to bring back some of the detail.

There are, of course, many different ways to think about these things, but this is one of mine. Exposure may seem like a complex topic in photography — and technologically, it is — but using a trick like this helps me quickly and easily try variations on the same scene. Most of the variations will get culled in Lightroom where I try to eliminate all but one or two shots of each scene for further processing.

The photos in this first gallery were taken near the center of the cemetery, chosen to illustrate contrasting bright-light and shadow elements. Select the first image to view a slideshow, though — depending on the device or display you are using — you may want to choose “View Full Size” from the slideshow to get a better sense of the fine details.

These three images are about having the sun in your eyes, but taking the photos anyway. When I took these, I could barely see the images in the viewfinder or on the camera’s LCD screen, so relied on the exposure meter to tell me if my settings were adequate. I liked them enough that over the weekend I took the camera to Grant Park and shot an entire series with the sun facing toward me, which I’ll process and post as soon as they’re finished.

Reds and oranges dominate the images of these two trees, prompting me to separate many of the images I’m still working on by color, into an orange gallery and a red gallery that I’ll post later this week.

These trees are located toward the back of the cemetery, near a roadway that bisects the grounds. The smokestack in the last image is across the street from the back end of the property, on part of what used to be the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills. It’s now a landmark on the same property — surrounded by a village of maintained and renovated “company town” houses called Cabbagetown, In its current incarnation as condominiums and rental units, the mill property is now known as the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts.

My previous autumn 2019 photo mash-ups, and a few other posts with new fall color photos, are here:

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #4

Four Small Signs of Early Fall

More Small Signs of Early Fall

Even More Small Signs of Early Fall

Autumn Tints at Twilight

Burnt Orange and Singed Pumpkin

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

4 Comments

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #4

From Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human by Daniel J. Siegel:

“Imagine trying to articulate a feeling full of gratitude for this gift of being here, for being human, for being alive.”

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“Be humble and grateful for the things available to you, for the things you know and feel, and for the secrets and mysteries still waiting for you.”

From Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, on appreciating the gift of creativity:

“You can receive your ideas with respect and curiosity, not with drama or dread. You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work…. You can dare to be pleased sometimes with what you have created…. You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures…. You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting — its partner — and that the two of you are working together toward something intriguing and worthwhile. You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point….

“And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence.”

While walking my neighborhood streets over the past few weeks, I kept seeing giant hydrangeas changing as fall changes them in street-facing gardens in front of people’s homes. I’m alway skittish about standing in a neighbor’s yard with a zoom lens, so I was glad to find the same varieties at Oakland Cemetery while taking photos for this year’s autumn extravaganza. The varied colors on the leaves were surprising; I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many color variations produced by a single batch of plants. These are growing in the corner of a large stone mausoleum, the stone creating a nice contrasting background for the leaves and their colors.

Fall in the southeast can be a bit contradictory: on one hand the leaves in late November are well through their turn and falling in massive numbers, yet daytime temperatures are still warm enough to support new growth — especially that of hardy flowering plants like these. This batch of light purple daisies were growing across one of the cemetery plots, reaching from the shade of a large oak tree toward the sun.

Walking further away from the daisies, I found a tangled mass of rose branches, with this fresh new leaf — bright red growth unfurling as if it was early spring and not late November…

… and not far away, some roses among the stones, ready to bloom.

My previous autumn 2019 photo mash-ups, and a few other posts with new fall color photos, are here:

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

Four Small Signs of Early Fall

More Small Signs of Early Fall

Even More Small Signs of Early Fall

Autumn Tints at Twilight

Burnt Orange and Singed Pumpkin

Thank you to all those who’ve visited my blog this year, looked at my photos, and read my words. When I returned to blogging last year, I wondered at first if blogging had become a thing of the past, supplanted by the short-attention-span-theater of Twitter and Facebook, but have been thrilled to discover instead the vibrant and ever-growing WordPress communities are still out there. So more than thanking you for your visits, let me say instead, thank you for the creative work you do: it’s fascinating, and fun, and mostly: it’s inspiring.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

From Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery by Brenda Tharp:

“For many photographers, contrast is just something to manage in terms of light and exposure. Yet contrast is also a vital component in composition. Think of contrast in many ways: the contrast of dark to light or black to white, the contrast of textures, the contrast of colors, the contrast of size. We can use contrast to create more interest and increase visual strength. Sometimes, contrast becomes the dominant element in the photograph. Consider the color contrast of holly berries against the green leaves, or orange-red sandstone against a stormy blue-gray sky. Consider that, by keeping an animal small in the frame, you can express the vastness of a place with the contrast of scale. All of these situations introduce contrast into the picture, quite aside from the contrast of light and exposure, and can create increased visual strength in your picture. Contrast is probably the reason you saw something worthy of photographing in the first place….”

“Think of how we respond to color in nature. The bright, strong colors of the reds, yellows, and oranges of a summer’s flower meadow change to darker yellows, burnt oranges, and browns in autumn. By the time winter comes, most everything is a shade of muted brown and beige, tones that represent a return to the earth…. Knowing more about the characteristics of color can help you make creative decisions in composing your pictures. Color is an element, just like shape or line is, and should be thought of as another tool to use in making pictures. While we can’t control the color in nature and must use the colors provided in any given scene or situation, we can consider the significance of the colors present and make creative decisions that employ the power of color.”

So … it seems I took a short break from blogging last week. I hadn’t intended to spend a lot of time watching the public testimonies from the impeachment hearings, preferring instead to work on fall photos while keeping a portion of one eyeball on the hearings in a tiny browser window on a second computer monitor. But then I got completely sucked into that rabbit hole (rabbit infrastructure might be more accurate) after viewing the testimony of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, after which — believe it or not — I was hooked once she took viewers through the recent history of Ukraine, its conflict with Russia, and the details of a smear campaign launched to intimidate her and precipitate her removal from the ambassador post. By raising my sights from the politics as much as possible, these hearings became more like an extended lesson in current history (a mixed metaphor if there ever was one) and how these incredibly smart and talented foreign service specialists like Yovanovitch represent the United States on the world stage.

There is no “short version” of what I learned in the past ten days, and as much as I occasionally consider spending more of my blogging time on history and even politics, I also recognize that — especially now, but probably always — such a shift would consume my time to an extent that would wipe out my creative work in photography and writing of any other kind. Still, here’s an attempt at a (politically neutral) summary of these recent events.

The essential story is contained in the testimonies of Yovanovitch, Gordon Sondland, and in the final day’s testimony of Fiona Hill. Think of these testimonies as three pillars that describe the entire controversy, around which all the other details revolve, something like this:

  1. The smear campaign against Yovanovitch, which led to her removal, provided the opening to insert Gordon Sondland into the story.
  2. Gordon Sondland, in contradictory testimony altered from its original non-public version, became the Trump administration’s facilitator of activities focused not on America’s national security interests but on the U. S. President’s political interests, using withheld military aid and promises of White House meetings to manipulate Ukraine.
  3. Fiona Hill, in her role as a member of the National Security Council and using her expertise in Russian and European affairs, attempted to keep national security policy in Ukraine on track while Sondland’s political ploys created conflicts with that.

If it’s possible for three minutes to encapsulate the entire controversy (and thirty hours of testimony), they’re here — where Hill describes how she sorted out what was happening and provides (perhaps unintentionally) a tutorial in developing historical and political context around swirling events. “I think this is all going to blow up,” she says, “and here we are.”


The story, of course, is far from complete, and the raveling will continue for many months, with historic impacts for years to come. I’m not a political observer by any means — and am in awe of those people who are, and who try to explain things to us — but in attempting to get a comprehensive handle on what was happening, I did find this interesting site that accumulates every publicly available document associated with the hearings:

Public Document Clearinghouse: Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry

When I finally stumbled away from the television over the weekend — feeling somewhat unmoored from daily life — it seemed that the best remedies for the brain-chaos I was experiencing included reading the last book in a sci-fi series set in a future Nigeria by Tade Thompson; walking the neighborhood, which is glowing with autumn’s orange and yellow light; playing with The Dog (who often threw toys at distracted-me watching the hearings); and — of course! — picking up the camera or getting back to processing some of the photos I had already taken.

For the gallery below, I chose a few of the photos from Oakland Cemetery that are part of my Autumn in Atlanta series — those that juxtaposed fall color against some of the stone and concrete structures on the cemetery grounds. The opening quotes on this post — about contrast and color — functioned like guiding principles for my image processing: as I mentioned in my first post in this series, I wanted to experiment with contrast like this to see what I could come up with. The processing for these images was similar to what I’ve described in many of my earlier posts: spot removal and exposure adjustments in Lightroom, with additional color and contrast enhancements using the Nik Collection.

Unlike most of my garden photos taken with a macro lens, I took these with an 18-250 millimeter zoom lens that provides reasonably good close-up focusing — down to 18 inches — though it does create some artifacts at the higher zoom levels. Lots of learning opportunities for me here: I can’t usually tell in the field whether or not the images will be sharp enough to satisfy me, and have to remember to pull back on the zoom for better results. The backgrounds, especially, created a bit of confusion when I was taking the photos, simply because I’m so much more accustomed to using a macro lens — which would have blurred the stone textures more than the zoom lens did. Still, these didn’t come out too bad (and I have a couple other sets of late-season hydrangea blooms and other fall foliage against stone that I’m still working on) so here they are:

Because these were an experiment, I decided to include the original, unprocessed images for those in the previous gallery, each followed by the final processed versions — partly because I wanted to see the comparisons myself. I was a little surprised — when viewing them side-by-side — how much additional color could be extracted from the backgrounds that wasn’t readily apparent until running them through Lightroom and Nik. You can select the first image to page through a before-and-after slideshow.

My previous autumn 2019 photo mash-ups, and a few other posts with new fall color photos, are here:

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

Four Small Signs of Early Fall

More Small Signs of Early Fall

Even More Small Signs of Early Fall

Autumn Tints at Twilight

Burnt Orange and Singed Pumpkin

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

5 Comments