by David Bigwood
To some, autumn signals the beginning of the end. It’s all downhill from here. Short days leading inexorably to even shorter ones. Summer warmth and long days, are disappearing. Gloomy skies are on the horizon. Cold, wet, and even colder days to come.
William Cullen Bryant, the nineteenth century American poet, wrote, ‘The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year’. One can almost feel him shuddering with distaste as he penned those lines.
But not all feel like Bryant. His compatriot James Whitcomb Riley exulted at the change of season when he wrote, ‘O it sets my heart a clickin’, like the tickin’ of a clock, when the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock’. And, of course, England’s John Keats welcomed the ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ with something akin to open arms.
This ambivalence to the onset of autumn is common for many reasons. Sufferers of hay fever for instance are glad to see the dampening down of their pollen producing tormentors while those who suffer the excruciating itching of chilblains live in dread as the year moves on.
For landscape photographers, it is an exciting part of the year. Summer is all very well but at times our lenses get overpowered by the omnipresent greens of high summer. What a thrill it is to sight the first flaming torch that is a poplar tree in autumn.
Duncan McEwan, a great Scottish photographer whom I interviewed several years ago and who has been picturing the landscape for over thirty years has this to say, “Most landscape photographers would agree that autumn is, without question, one of their favourite seasons. I personally like it because, like spring, it portrays a dynamic aspect due to the colour changes associated with it. By comparison, summer is rather static and consequently less exciting from a photographic perspective.”
He went on to say, “Apart from the colour attractions of autumn, it is also a season that can provide a wonderful array of moods — mist, rainbows, dark skies, broken clouds with shafts of light, frost and even the first snowfalls. When autumn colours mix with frost or snow-capped peaks, it again emphasises this sense of change and the transition to winter.”
Of course, these sentiments do not apply to much of Australia but where I live in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, autumn is a magical time for a photographer.
The many poplar trees enliven the landscape with their golden leaves and, as poplars tend to grow well alongside water courses, there are numerous opportunities for reflection pictures especially in early morning. While poplars are certainly in the ascendancy among the deciduous trees in the mountains, they are by no means the only ones that add to the colour of the season.
By the Snowy River along the Barry Way, I found some wonderful colours from a variety of trees and by the same river at Dalgety, I came across some colourful leaves through which the sun was shining and just asking to be photographed.
And, this is where the season can become alive for our lenses. While there are many, many attractive straight shots of colourful trees and reflections to be had, for those of us used to seeing the parts that make up the whole of the landscape, the sun, now lower in the sky than in summer, becomes a wonderful light for shots through colourful leaves, spotlit images of dried grasses, fungi, falling leaves, piles of fallen leaves and, if you have a youngster or two handy, those fallen leaves being kicked. If you have a garden with a liquid amber tree as I had when I lived in Sydney, you can get these kids among the leaves shots at home.
On our image gathering expeditions we often come across locations that would make a great shot but at that moment it just is not right. Analyse what you think is wrong. Is it the time of day, the weather conditions or even is it the right season. Whatever the result of your thinking, make a note of the location and determine that you will return when the objections to an immediate shot have been overcome. In this way, once autumn arrives you can look up the places that you have listed as potential autumn shots.
And, when shooting, think about your composition and don’t get carried away with the colours so that you just end up with a load of snapshots.
To see a few of my autumn/fall pictures, go to http://bigwoodpublishing.com/Images/thumbnails.php?album=49