Up and Down

Having spent so much of the last few weeks looking down at leaf litter I thought it was time I looked up before it was too late. Everyone has taken an image like this or has seen one like it on a photographic site (I’ve certainly seen a few on Instagram recently), but it is still fresh when you add one to your own archive – and I am sure that somewhere hiding away in a folder I do have a ‘looking up’ image.

Autumn seems to have hung on longer than usual this year but I suspect that the next few days with forecasts of rain and high winds will finally see this beautiful season draw to a close, and I will miss it.

The road sweepers are also busy clearing up leaves which means that we will also lose the leaves that currently are layered on the pavements. Nature and the elements combine to create their own unique compositions and this was one of a number that I saw earlier this afternoon in town


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My Leaf Project continues to morph as new ideas occur to me, and today it is about collages. the two previous posts have featured image that are the result of combining several images together to create a ‘panel’ Image. Click here and here to view those Posts if you have missed them.

Today is all about collages – meaning that the elements have been assembled on a white background (it’s actually a shelf from a flat-pack wardrobe) and then photographed in situ. Thankfully no wind today otherwise they would all have blown away!

The two images above are of Dogwood leaves (cornus cericea). Next, below is a collage of  Hornbeam leaves (carpinus betulus).All these first three images pursue the same idea:  of arranging leaves to show visually the process of decay from green/yellow through to dark brown or black.

Below is the first attempt at something different. Somewhere at the back of my mind, remembered from somewhere, is the concept of placing items on a background ‘wash’ of paint applied to the ‘canvas’. I think it must relate to an art exhibit in the past. Translating that into a photographic idea has resulted in a wash of mud being roughly applied to the white background and then Sycamore leaves (Acer pseudoplatanus) layered on in a way that mimics the way they fall to the ground to create the leaf litter that we gaze down at.

There’s a famous saying that “curiosity is the mother of invention”.  How true that is. I am enjoying this period of experimentation with an idea that started quite simply of finding ways to show Autumn colours as a process of change and decay. It has gained a momentum that I never really imagined. The project will end soon as the trees are stripped bare, but I have quite an archive of leaf images that will allow me to explore further and then next year maybe this project will fly again.

Remember to clock on any image to see a higher quality enlargement. And, as always, your comments on this project will be most welcome.




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Clematis Panel

This is a first stab at a different type of panel of autumn leaves. Rather than using a textured background – the kitchen floor or a paving slab in the garden I’ve recently shot a series of images of leaves from our Clematis and photographed them on a white background.

Once an idea comes to me, I find my brain continues to explore the idea and different approaches suggest themselves. What I like about this version is that the leaves are ‘specimens’ (as one might display butterflies or moths) – a collection of sorts. And these are concurrent, all these leaves exist on the plant at the same time as decay happens seemingly haphazardly. Some leaves well advanced and others still a brilliant pristine green.

Click on the image to see an enlargement to appreciate the panel properly. And as always your opinions are valued.


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Oak Leaves

The idea of taking a set of pictures of Autumnal leaves, arranging them in a matrix to form a panel image, sized to fit a single sheet of A3 paper sounds easy – but it isn’t. It’s harder than you might think.

This is the first panel in my Leaf Project (described in an earlier post, click here to view). I deliberately chose Oak leaves for this first panel because of their variegated colours and the way that the leaves are often found on the ground in arrays of two or three leaves. They are naturally photogenic. No leaf or clutch of leaves is ever the same – each is unique.

The idea was to bring them home, photograph them against a non-distracting background, treating them a bit like botanical specimens, and then combine the images into one single image.  I have shot some with natural light on the kitchen floor, and some outside on a paving slab. This panel (you will have noticed) features a paving slab.

This project has been on-going for about three weeks (and continuing) and it has been a steep learning cure. These are some of the issues I have come across and how I have resolved them:

  1. Find a tile or paver and stick with it – that way the background is consistent.
  2. I shoot the leaves carefully positioned within a square cut-out cardboard window. This helps me compose the shots and when I shoot them I frame them precisely using the  cut-out so that I maintain a common scale (leaves from the same tree vary considerably in size).
  3. The camera is set to Aperture priority (F11) and images are shot hand-held using my Lumix LX100. It’s a lot easier to hold a light camera steady than a heavy one. The cardboard cut-out helps ensure the camera is always level with the ground.
  4. Leaves need to be flat, I’ve found that leaving leaves in a bucket of water overnight helps to reduce curling, and gives  them a little extra vibrancy.
  5. Leaves potentially for a particular panel need to be shot in a batch – light levels are not constant for long, and overcast light works best. Despite that I’ve still found it difficult to maintain a standard toned background despite keeping processing steps identical across a batch.
  6. Finally there are decisions to be made on layout, sizing images, and using guide-lines to drag them into position onto the final image, and how to use the central image space in the panel (I’m not entirely sure the central image works in this panel).

I have always appreciated Autumn best at the ‘single leaf’ level – there is extraordinary diversity in the shapes, colours, variegation, and decay; not forgetting the way that nature creates its own collages as leaves fall and create innumerable compositions as the leaf litter accumulates. There’s more to come as I make sense of two or three hundred images already captured and potential images sitting in a bucket ready for tomorrow.

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For today

Meant to post this last year, and forgot. Just remembered it, better later than never!

Seen in a shop window in Dorking; the photographer appears to be trying to read his mind! Just a bit of fun

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Leaf Litter

My first Leaf Panel is not quite along the lines of the planned project for Leaf Panels, but this was an easy panel to assemble to see how images would look in a grid. I’m reasonably happy with the result, the true test will be when I start to create a panel of similar single leaves and decide how to construct the layout.

Seven of the nine images were shot in a half an hour Sheffield Park. The two that were shot last Autumn are the images of Sycamore leaves – top centre, and middle centre.

Two images were shot on an iPhone 6S, the rest on my Lumix LX100. But which were those two?

The project is progressing with a growing collection of single leaves and I hope to have a completed panel by next week.

And the answer to the question is that it is bottom left and bottom right that were shot on the iPhone and had very little processing apart from sharpening. The iPhone is an impressive gadget.

Remember to click on the image (probably twice) to see the full enlargement.


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The Forms of Ice

Three images today that were taken within a span of ten minutes on a high altitude walk that I have walked many times – and no two occasions have been the same.

The first shows one of the remarkable sights of compacted ice. Think of the annular rings in a tree trunk for a moment and how they count the years. In ice, the compacted layers count individual snow falls. The dark layers are formed of sediment, debris, pollution perhaps, and even Saharan sand.

The second is s little further on – a steep slope of snow and ice above the track. The top third composed of compacted swirls of ice below which lies snow not yet melted, stained by dust and grit through which runs a thin fissure which over time will become a deeper and wider crevasse.

Finally the ice slope below the previous two images. A sheet of crazed, cracked, fragmented ice. As if a giant with a blade has incised the surface in a moment of madness.

All within ten minutes and probably two hundred yards of walking. Glacial ice always takes me by surprise, sometimes with its elegance, and at other times by the rawness of its chaos.

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