As September draws to a close and with the equinox just behind us, the days are becoming shorter. It is now that the leaves on the deciduous trees are about to show us all how beautiful the act of letting go can be. As they transform from verdant greens to their autumn hues and fall to the ground and enrich the soil.
Being among deciduous trees as their leaves turn to golds, ambers, oranges, browns and reds, reminds me of the autumns of my childhood spent in America and visits to the mountains in Vermont, New England and Virginia. The countryside becomes a patchwork of warm colours and the local beech woods are like natural cathedrals as the autumn light filters through a golden orange canopy to the forest floor below.
The beautiful warm colours of the autmn foliage are created as the chlorohylls in the leaves of deciduous trees degrade. When this happens the yellow, xanthophylis pigment and the orange beta carotenes present in the foliage are revealed. These colours are already present in the leaves, but it is only as the daylight hours decline and the tree rests from its growing season that their colour is revealed.
There are many theories about why deciduous trees lose their leaves in the colder seasons. The most compelling reasons being protection from the colder weather, the costs of photosynthesising in periods with less sunlight and protection against insect predation.
Trees with red leaves tend to be better able to protect themselves against aphid pests. And it is curious that none of our native species have leaves which turn red in the autumn. A favourie tree of mine to photograph are the maples who are known for their red autumn foliage, however our native field maple has leaves which turn a bright yellow. And the naturalised sycamore has foliage that turns to golds and browns in the autumn months. The growth of saplings of other tree species has been shown to be stunted by the red pigments, anthocyanins present in leaves.
The effects of climate change may see our trees staying greener longer as science is showing that some trees are responding to higher levels of atmospheric CO2 by staying greener longer.
When I photograph autumn leaves, I will spend time walking under the boughs of the tree searching for compositions. I like to find an interesting leaf or group of leaves that I can get close to and shoot into the light with a wide open apperture. As the light filters through the canopy above it creates wonderful soft bokeh.
I am drawn to patches of colour within the canopy, as then the leaves stand out within the image, as in the picture above of beech leaves. Here in Dorset the woods tend to turn completely in late October and early November. But it’s possible to capture autumnal leaf inmage like the one above in September as the first leaves change colour.
The last two images in this post are multiple exposures. I make these in Photoshop, as my camera isn’t capable of “in camera” multiple exposure. So I will hold the image I want to create in my mind and shoot the images I will later put together using the blending modes in the layers panel in PS. Often editing them individually in LightRoom first.
I process most of my leaf images in the same way I do my flower photography, and if you would like to read about that you can in my Ethereal Nature Photography blog.
Thank you for reading this post, if you would like to purchase a card (for less than the price of a coffee) at my online card shop, HERE it would help me to continue making and sharing nature photography. Or if you would like to share any of your images I would love to see them.