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!

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Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #2

From October, or Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau:

“Every blade in the field — every leaf in the forest — lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees — sere leaves — dried grass and herbs — are not these a good part of our life? And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush — the sallow and cadaverous countenance of vegetation — its painted throes — with the November air for canvas?”

From On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation by Alexandra Horowitz:

“I stopped to admire the tree, a bright spectacle of yellow leaves and orange fruits on a gray November morning. It had dressed for autumn, yet in its very dressing seemed more robust and lively: it was living and changing on our time scale, quite unlike the iron and granite nearby.”

As autumn in Atlanta continues its advance, The Photographer and His Dog spent the morning raking the first big batch of leaves dropped from a giant elm tree that towers over their garden. Well … to be accurate, only one of them did the raking; the other had great fun dive-bombing the piled leaves, stealing and dragging the biggest sticks he could fit in his mouth, and generally running circles around the courtyard in the energy created by a cool fall breeze. And, now, that one gets to take a nap under the desk while the other assembles this blog post — consisting of four galleries of new images from another trip to Oakland Cemetery.

Here’s the first gallery. I included a few images of this tree in my previous autumn mash-up post, and on a subsequent photo-trip, I’ll snap-up the full tree and share the images. It’s large enough that you can stand beneath it and — while covered in its shade — hear a soft tinkling sound when the wind blows, a sound that reminds me of chimes made from capiz shells.

Last week we had the first fall freeze here, an unusual one that continued for a couple of days and was severe enough to dissolve the leaves of plants like hostas and hydrangeas, as well as those of some nearby trees that hadn’t yet changed color. This second gallery below shows tiny ground-cover daisies that I found among the tombstones and gravestones of the cemetery prior to the freeze, the stone surfaces creating a nice contrast with the colors of the flowers. Until mid-November, the relatively warm fall meant that some hardy-bloomers like these were still doing well. I went back to the property yesterday to see if they’d survived the freeze; and, surprisingly, many of them did and — with moderating temperatures — continue to bloom.

I saw the colors featured in this third gallery from about half a mile away. Based on the structure of this young tree and the appearance of the leaves, I think this is a Japanese Maple variant. I found images on the web of a Baby Lace Japanese Maple that looked a lot like this one. The leaves are very delicate and intensely curly — possibly just how they look this late in the season — and the bright orange just glowed against the gray on the tree branches and the green in the background.

This last gallery shows a tree I believe is called Golden Larch, where I spent about an hour marveling at the fiery oranges and yellows that mix with the last bits of green on its branches. The final image in this gallery shows most of the full tree — an unobstructed two-thirds of it that I was able to fit in a single image.

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

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

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!

13 Comments

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #1

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

“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:

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

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!

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