Sunday, October 20, 2013


This time of year the local weather reporters are always showing maps of the Upper Midwest reflecting the status of the fall colors.  Frankly, they always seem to be behind the curve--the colors have generally progressed faster than their maps show.  Or maybe it's just that I like to see a fair amount of green among the yellows, oranges, and reds.  Even so, by this weekend it was getting pretty late by anyone's reckoning, and I thought I should get out and catch what color I could before it is all gone.

On Saturday, the 19th, I visited the "back lot" of the local Unitarian Church, only a couple of miles from our house and a location I have enjoyed many of times in the past.  On Saturday and
Sunday mornings I also visited a woods that forms part of our condominium development.  I wound up taking a lot of shots, usually a sign that I felt good about the opportunities.  In fact, I took a whopping 400 images over the two days.  On the other hand, I have been more assiduous in discarding images that are technically poor or have compositional defects or are simply near-dupicates.  By the end of the weekend I had weaned my images down to about 35, a discard rate of over 90 percent.  I didn't know whether I should be disappointed with my low success rate or pleased that I am getting better (more aggressive) at paring down my library.  Whatever.

So here are some of the shots that I have retained--at least for now.

One of the first photos I took at the Unitarian Church was of a birch tree adjacent to the parking lot.

The tree was being nicely backlit by the morning sun.  However, there were all sorts of distractions around the tree so I decided to limit my shot to that portion of the tree that I could capture without most of the background problems.  I did darken the background a bit in post processing.

There were a number of sumac shrubs bordering the church parking lot.  Many sumacs turn a beautiful red hue in the fall.  However, some of the sumacs here had simply turned yellow, such as the following.

I took a number of sumac shots, but I liked the above one the best because of the composition.  I often put the central stem off-center, but this time I placed it in the center of the image, to preserve the symmetry.

One of the other shrubs at the church featured leaves that varied from green to bright red and that were punctuated by wonderful white berries.  One of the shots I took was of just a clump of the berries.

I intentionally opened up the aperture to f/4 to keep the berries in focus but put the leaves out of focus.  Here I really wanted the subject to be the berries, with the leaves just providing a context.  I liked the "soft" feel of the leaves in this shot, especially the leaf to the left of the berries.  And the single green berry created a nice point of interest.  I also took some wider angle shots, including the following.

Here I was happy to have a lot of the closer leaves in good focus but a lot of the foliage further back blurred out to give the image nice depth.  This was shot at an aperture of f/10.

OK, so even though I was focusing on fall color, the following is a black & white.

In this shot I wanted to feature these spent flower heads at varying distances, and therefore at varying levels of focus.  Things didn't work out exactly as I planned and I wound up cropping what I got.  Moreover, the colors were drab browns and grays, which I just didn't like, so I converted the image to black & white.

Here is a shot of a tired leaf, also at the church.

Even though the leaf was somewhat indifferent and has a hole eaten through it, I was happy with the image's resolution.  I used my Tamron macro lens and a tripod, which helped a lot.  It also helped that the leaf was essentially flat, so that all of it was essentially in a single plane perpendicular to the lens.  I took the shot at an aperture of f/4, nicely blurring out any background elements.  The shot as taken was simply of the complete leaf, not very interesting.  So I decided to crop it down a bit to create a little mystery, perhaps.

On to the woods adjacent to our subdivision.  The woods are relatively dense and have been left in a "natural" state for many years.  Even so, they are not overrun with low growing plants, so moving around is pretty easy.  The floor of the woods is covered with leaves and other miscellaneous detritus, offering numerous opportunities for shots.  The only problem is the low-light conditions.  Here is a relatively typical shot of the floor.

Is it too obvious that I have positioned the yellow leaf in the upper right corner as a point of interest?  I didn't actually place the leaf there, but I took the shot with the leaf's position in mind.  The woods also presented something of a puzzle.

I was attracted by the what I took to be morning dew on this oak leaf.  However, I don't know the composition of the red drops.  Blood?  Seems too translucent, but I couldn't think of any other explanations.  Again, I cropped this shot down quite a bit to emphasize the dew drops and to keep the shot from looking too mundane (hopefully).

Here is a leaf that had remained bright green, even though it had been chomped on by one or more insects.

Again, I chose to crop the image down to avoid the shot appearing too mundane.  I wish that I had taken more care to remove the piece of grass in the upper right and the yellow stem below the leaf's base.

Here is a general shot of the woods that I liked.

Here I wanted to feature both the yellow leaves on the floor of the woods and the three tree trunks.  I did like this overall composition.  This was shot at f/9, with the focus on the tree trunks.

One of the things I found myself doing was to take shots of clumps of colored leaves and with trees or the general woods as a background.  I wanted to keep the leaves in focus and allow the background to go out of focus, retaining just enough focus to make the background recognizable but without distracting from the subject leaves in the foreground.  Here are a few of my attempts along these lines.

This last shot is probably the best of the lot, as it includes a dark foreground trunk to help "explain" the source of the leaves.  And here is another shot that worked well.

The background is perhaps a bit too indefinite, but I liked the shot's overall soft pastel feel.  This was taken at an aperture of f/4.  

Below is a shot of a dying fern that I was able to contrast nicely with a dark background.  

Finally, here is a shot of a couple of overlapping leaves, again set against a dark background.  Shot at f/4.

The shot's composition worked for me. 


1 comment:

  1. Isn't Fall a beautiful time of year? Color here in Michigan is great too!! You sure have a talent bringing out the detail