Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #8

From “The Arrival of Fall” by Lauren Springer, in The Writer in the Garden by Jane Garmey:

“Autumn is a time when warm color and rustling sounds resonate throughout the plant world….

“In the deciduous woodlands of the East and Midwest, winter spreads down the land from north to south, from highland to lowland, rolling a carpet of foliage color over the landscape before it. The land, so serenely green for all those months, suddenly looks like an infrared photograph….

“On the grasslands of the prairie and plains, the tired gray-green and buff of late summer take on richer amber, sienna and rust tones as the foliage and seedheads of the grasses ripen. Late-blooming wildflowers, predominantly deep golds and purples, attract sleepy butterflies and bees, while more energetic birds frenetically gorge themselves on seeds before the first snow cover blankets the land.”

This is the eighth post in my autumn series of new photos. The previous seven posts showed images from my visits to Oakland Cemetery, and the galleries on this post (and one more, to follow shortly) are from Grant Park. The park is a 131-acre woodland, established in Atlanta in 1883, near the center of the neighborhood by the same name and a short walk from my home.

I took all the photos in these galleries on the last weekday in November, substituting Black Friday for an Orange-Red-Yellow Friday, shortly before the neighborhood trees shed most of their leaves during three days of high winds. This first gallery includes photos from the north side of the park; on the map above, that’s the corner at the top where Sydney Street and Park Avenue meet, near one of the park’s entrances. The homes slightly-visible over the hill and through the trees (in the first four photos) are on Sydney Street; and the roadway showing in the third, fourth, and hidden in the fifth image leads, all mysterious-like, deeper into a park section darkened by massive elm and oak trees (collectively referred to (by some people) as “elk trees“). I composed most of these images to include the street lamps along the roadway, to help emphasize the height of the trees by comparison. The street lamps, I estimate, are 10 to 12 feet tall; the surrounding trees, therefore, are very very much taller.

I took this series in the section that runs along Cherokee Avenue; on the left side of the map, you can see where Cherokee traces the entire east side of the park. Orange and red leaves were still abundant, even as you can see there’s a thick ground-cover of those already shed.

Further along the Cherokee Avenue side of the park, near an entrance at Georgia Avenue, I found these bright yellow surprises. Most trees with yellow leaves, having turned several weeks earlier, were bare by the end of November, but the one in the first three images “stole the show” framed as it was near the entrance. The last three images show a different tree nearby; still turning from green to orange and yellow.

Since we’re approaching the Christmas holiday, I imagine you’ve probably been wondering where Christmas gnomes come from. I know I have.

Mystery solved. I found this gnome nursery at the bottom of a hill underneath a giant pine tree, where pointy gnome heads were starting to emerge from this thick bed of pine needles. One baby gnome did pop out and scurry up the trunk of a tree; I got a shot but then I accidentally deleted it during post-processing. Sorry about that; you’ll just have to trust me. 🙂

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

Autumn in Atlanta: Photo Mash-Up #7

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 #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!

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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!

5 Comments

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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