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Posts Tagged ‘fall foliage’

Looking up into the trees at Huntley Meadows Park during a recent trip and lamenting the lack of brilliant fall foliage, I glanced down into the dark waters of the duckweed-spattered marsh and saw these wonderful abstract patterns of colorful shapes and textures. I love the fall.

floating fall foliage

floating fall foliage

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Ordinary birds like this American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) take on added beauty when surrounded by colorful fall foliage. (Photo taken 27 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.)

The sky was blue, the light was beautiful, and the leaves were colorful—I really couldn’t have asked for more. Well, actually I was hoping to see a bald eagle on that particular perch, but was more than happy with what I got.

autumn crow

autumn crow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the early morning light began to filter through the trees and the mist was rising, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of tranquility last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Was there any way that I could possibly capture that feeling in an image?

Many of you know that I rarely shoot landscape photos. I normally do not carry with me the kind of wide angle lens that is traditionally associated with landscape photography and instead carry a long telephoto zoom lens and a macro lens almost all of the time. The first two photos below were not cropped and were shot with the telephoto zoom lens set at 150mm, its widest setting. I have started carrying my Canon SX50 with me most of the time and this super zoom camera allowed me to get a much wider view and a greater depth of field.

I am not sure that any of these images adequately capture the feeling of the moment, but I wanted to share some of my different approaches in trying to capture the light, shadows, shapes, and colors of one early morning in the autumn.

early autumn morning

early autumn morning

early autumn morning

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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How do you capture the beauty of autumn? If you live in a location where there are broad expanses of trees full of brightly colored leaves, it would be pretty easy, I think. In Northern Virginia where I live, the colors tend to be muted and isolated. There are patches of colors here and there, but it seems like many of the leaves go straight from green to brown.

On some recent trips to Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite shooting location, I tried to capture some glimpses of the changing season using my telephoto zoom lens. The colors and patterns of the fall foliage turned into abstract patterns when viewed through a telephoto lens.

Here are some of my favorite shots as I focused in on the autumn foliage. I am also including a final image that attempts to capture the feeling of walking down a trail in the crisp morning air with fallen leaves crunching underfoot.

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

autumn trail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the trees have given up their colorful leaves by now, but one hardy young tree refused to do so and looked almost like it was on fire in the early morning yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park.

The tree really stood out and grabbed my attention and I wanted somehow to capture its beauty. Many of you know that I have very limited experience with landscape photography and I simply wasn’t sure how to approach this atypical subject.

My first instinct was to zoom in closely and fill as much of the frame with the details of the tree as I could. That’s my favored approach with both my macro and zoom lenses.  I was shooting over a field of cattails and across a pond and my first series of images looked like this one.

fiery tree

I moved further down the boardwalk and decided to try to capture more of the surrounding environment by shooting in landscape mode. I also tried to get a clearer view of the beautiful reflections my moving beyond the cattails.

fiery tree

In order to get a different view, I climbed up the observation deck and took some shots like this one with various objects in the foreground and some reflected sky showing at the bottom of the image.

fiery tree

I presented the images with only a slight amount of cropping to give you an idea of what I was going for as I “worked” this subject. How did I do? In my view, the middle image is by far the best and serves as a reminder to me that stepping back and zooming out can be beneficial. More importantly, perhaps, I can see the benefits of trying out different approaches and different subjects as a way of stretching and learning and, hopefully, growing in my skills as a photographer.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How can I show the beauty of the autumn foliage? As I was pondering that question, I glanced down into the waters of a small pond at my local marshland park and found my answer.

Impressionist autumn

The combination of the light, the reflections, and the ripples enveloped me in an impressionist world, where the forms were blurred, but recognizable. I love the art of Monet, and somehow the autumn reflections brought his works to mind.

Impressionist autumn

As i moved about, the scene would change, as different elements were reflected in the water.

Impressionist autumn

I’m often at a loss when trying to photograph landscapes—I am so used to focusing on the details of a subject that I have trouble seeing the big picture. Somehow it seemed easier when I concentrated my attention on the limited expanse of the water in the pond.

Impressionist autumn

Here in Northern Virginia, we usually don’t have the really vivid colors that I remember from my childhood days in New England, but the subdued colors are beautiful nonetheless. I find in these more restrained shades a kind of melancholic reminder that the days are gradually fading into winter.

Impressionist autumn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Here’s one last photo of the geese from last weekend, possibly my favorite shot. I like the fact that it shows geese in action—the geese look like they are having a race across the water, though I think they had just landed and were slowing down. The colorful fall foliage and its reflection in the water add interest too. Somehow the picture works well for me as an autumn landscape. (Be sure to click on it to see a higher resolution view.)

Geese racing in the fall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you have aspirational shots, i.e. images that you really want to be able to take? This past weekend I took this shot of two ducks, a male and a female, coming in for a landing in the water, with reflections of the fall foliage in the water in the distance. This is the kind of shot I aspire to shoot, for both technical and artistic reasons. I didn’t manage to produce a great image during this first attempt this past weekend at a local suburban pond, but I gave  myself something to shoot for, a future goal. With practice and good fortune, I hope to be able to produce a better image. In the mean time, I’m happy with my initial effort at shooting synchronized duck dancing.

Duck pas de deux in the fall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Life’s pleasures can be so simple, like watching a floating leaf on a sunny day as it is propelled across the water’s surface by a gentle breeze.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The water level in the area of the marsh where I photographed herons and egrets earlier this summer is so low that it is now just a big puddle. Therefore, I was surprised early one morning this past weekend to see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) wading in the water. The light was not very bright, but the surface of the water had a really beautiful reflection of the orange of the fall foliage. The heron was a pretty good distance away and I was on a boardwalk, so my options were limited for framing my shots. Here are a couple of my favorite shots of the heron, surrounded by the reflection of the fall colors.

Great Blue Heron in the fall at Huntley Meadows Park

Fall reflection of a Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the autumn, rural areas in New England are often invaded by hordes of city dwellers anxious to see the spectacular fall foliage. Locals frequently refer (often derisively) to these outsiders as “leaf peepers.” Still, it’s hard to ignore the beauty of the changing leaves, and the Northern Cardinal in this photo appears to have paused for a moment to admire the scenery. Apparently birds can be leaf peepers too.

Northern Cardinal checks out the fall foliage

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The tree is ablaze with vibrant fall colors and in the middle of it sits a dull black bird, a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), whose only touch of color is his yellow eyes. The juxtaposition of the contrasting elements, I believe, makes the image more interesting than either of them would have been separately.

Common Grackle in a tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was just after 5:00 in the afternoon and storm clouds were gathering for rain showers that eventually came. I headed back to my car and just as I reached the parking lot I looked up. Beautiful late-afternoon light was shining on the tops of the trees with dark clouds in the background and I snapped a few shots. I decided to fight my temptation to tweak the image (for fear of messing up what I had) and didn’t crop at all.I did just a little sharpening and a slight increase in saturation. I don’t know if the image adequately (and accurately) captured the wonderful light, but it gives you an idea of what the scene looked like to me.

Stormy light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I arrived early at the marsh on a cool fall morning. The dew was heavy on the vegetation and the warmth of the rising sun was creating a fog-like list that hung over the field of cattails. Looking toward the west, I could see trees in the distance that were starting to show their glorious fall foliage and there was a soft illumination from the sun (as shown in the first photo). Looking in another direction, I could see darker shadows of the tress and a heavier mist (as shown in the second photo). You can see some golden light in the upper branches of the tree.

I am not sure that I was able to capture completely the inner peace I felt as I watched interplay of the light and the water on the cattails in the foreground and on the trees in the background. For a few moments, nothing else seemed to matter as I was caught up in the beauty of nature.

Morning mist and fall foliage

Morning mist and shadows

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Reflections often look much better than the original objects that are being reflected. The water (and the objects in the water, like the rocks in this photo) can distort the “reality” and add a different tonality and texture to the reflection. As I was walking along the edge of the water, I was happy to finally find a patch of foliage with the fall colors of my childhood, but the beauty was marred by the utility poles and traffic signs of my suburban area. The reflection seems to have cleansed the image of those blemishes and shows a purer, more beautiful view, a view closer to what my heart was seeing.

Fall reflection

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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