“Today the winds picked up, temperatures dropped a bit, big clouds are moving in, the air is laced with the scent of wood fires, and showers of fallen leaves swirl down from the tall canopies. I realize that ‘looks like autumn’ and ‘feels like autumn’ are two different things. Today feels like autumn.”
From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo and Robert Llewellyn:
“It seems to me a big mistake to hype only the two or three weeks in autumn when fall leaves are supposedly at their peak. This may help drive tourism, but it does nothing to improve seeing. There is actually a long progression of leaf color turning in the fall, and watching the progression is much more satisfying than just showing up for the climax. For me, fall actually begins in July when I find the first red tupelo leaf on the ground, proceeds through the yellow walnut leaf showers of August, progresses through the sumac reds of September, crests with the multicolored maples of October, then winds down with the hickory ambers of November. The late burst of ginkgo yellow in November is almost a curtain call.”
Last autumn was a bit of a bust in my neighborhood because of a long stretch of rain and wind that tossed out most of the turning leaves within a few days. The fall photography I posted here consisted of some reprocessed photos that I had taken on several trips to New York state (see Autumn in New York), some individual photos posted with quotations (as Single Frames: Autumn Close Up), and a few sets from my garden and photo walks at Grant Park and Oakland Cemetery (see the blog category Autumn 2018). This year is shaping up differently: with a warmer than average September and October and less rain, the fall color is late to appear here in my urban forest. Smaller trees — especially young maples and oaks — are well into their fall turn, and some trees that typically drop leaves with little turning are well into their dropping phase. There’s still a lot of green, but with a good look around I found many fine color changes taking place so far that I’ve posted as:
Light fascinates me this time of year: the longer shadows created especially in late afternoon by the shift toward winter sun mixes so well with the changing colors. At about 4:00 PM on any partly overcast day, the leaves — slightly translucent in their waning days, but flush with iridescent color — seem to glow. I often just go out and look for the subtle or even surprising color variations, like those on a Japanese Maple in front of my house. The tree’s color is headed toward orange and yellow, but I noticed these two tufts of leaves turning red (with a splash of purple). The first frame below shows the two red clumps, about twenty feet off the ground and five feet from each other; followed by separate zooms on the left and right red leaves. Zoom lenses are great to use for this kind of photography, enabling me to move in close enough to isolate the red clumps separately, and create different kinds of foregrounds and backgrounds than those I typically create with macro shots.
With the excellent weather this year, I’ve spent several mornings taking new photos at Oakland Cemetery, an especially fun place for fall photography because of the enormous variety of trees, shrubs, and other plant life that fill its 48 acres. It’s not possible to cover the entire property in a few hours of photo-shooting, especially this time of year when the partial color change segregates and highlights some of the early color amid the remaining green, and The Photographer finds himself obsessively marveling at the abundance of colors in a single tree. Here are some scene-setting shots, showing an area that I’ve spent a lot of time in, where you can see how nicely the colors are turning among three sections of the property.
It’s also a great place to play in the light, something I tried to do with these three photos of a tree (whose name, unfortunately, I don’t know) that produces oval-shaped leaf clusters that are almost like vines. They’re in the process of turning from green to yellow and orange, and bright light filtered through some surrounding oak trees gave these tiny leaves a nice luminous glow.
Here’s a variation on the third image above, a bit of an abstraction with no background and some amped-up leaf detail:
And here is the original RAW image, followed by the two variations, for comparison. I used Lightroom’s spot removal, radial filters, and brushes to eliminate some of the leaves (from the top right corner and bottom of the image), and to soften and darken the background elements in the second version; then duplicated and increased those adjustments in the third version to completely eliminate the background.
I recently finished reading Melody Warnick’s book This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, where the author provides practical suggestions for developing a greater understanding of and appreciation for the place where you live. Warnick’s book occupies a space in my library alongside John Stilgoe’s Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, and Robert Archibald’s A Place To Remember: Using History to Build Community — books that explore the interconnected meanings of geographical spaces from perspectives of history, culture, human experience, and landscape theory. Photography and imagery also make an appearance in these books — sometimes indirectly — with their emphasis on “seeing places with a new pair of eyes” which prompted me to try and look at my photography differently on this year’s fall photo-shoots.
With that thinking in mind, I decided to experiment with some different types of images: studies that take advantage of the plentiful architectural structures on the grounds of the cemetery, and the contrast between their hard lines, textures, and colors and the plants that adorn the cemetery plots. Here are three examples — there will be more! — showing a bushy past-prime hydrangea against the stony detail of one of the mausoleums.
As with all the galleries on this post, select any image to see larger versions in a slideshow.
Thanks for reading and taking a look!