"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #3

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!


  1. I really appreciate hearing your view of the testimony. I do not have a television, I do read news, both written and on-line, and am always interested to hear about what people who saw the testimony think. Lovely fall photos as well.

    1. Dale

      Thanks so much for your comment. I hesitated to even write about the hearings, since it’s all so controversial and divisive, but after spending so much time watching them, I needed to get it out of my system! Thanks for commenting on the photos also! 🙂

  2. I, too, was riveted by the testimonies and didn’t think they were at all boring, as many Republicans claimed they were. I was inspired by the courage and the sense of duty of our public servants. It is clear what happened, but I doubt the Senate will display the same courage and sense of duty that the public servants did. And, yes, after all that walks with the dog and photography were exactly what you needed. Some of them are begging to be framed.

    1. Dale

      I agree on “boring” … the hearings were fascinating, and like I said above, I feel like I learned so much and hadn’t expected that. Those trying to dismiss them as boring obviously had other motives, which had nothing to do with discovering what actually happened. And I was glad when Fiona Hill, late in her testimony, called out those Republicans who were just making speeches instead of asking her questions and had even left the hearing room.

      Every day (or maybe every twenty minutes!), more of the story unravels … so it’s hard to imagine where it will all end. But even if the Senate doesn’t convict, I will be glad for what the House has done and will do over the next few weeks, regardless of the political effects.

      Thanks for your comment on the photos, too!

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