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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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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16 Responses to Oak Leaves

  1. Sue says:

    That shows dedication, concentration, problem solving and sheer tenacity! Nicely done, Andy 😊

  2. paula graham says:

    Kept you occupied for a while! Nice result.

  3. Chillbrook says:

    A lovey panel Andy. I like this project very much!

  4. What a great project. You’re right I would have thought that this was easy but to get it right it takes lots of pre-planning and of course a great eye. Awesome job.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Edith. It’s been an interesting journey of discovery – I’m actually already looking forward to next Autumn when I will have a very clear idea of how to re-start this project with all (or most) of the potential problems already solved.

  5. shoreacres says:

    This is even more attractive than I’d imagined it would be. The deliberateness of your approach is interesting. After looking at the panel for a time, your comment about scale made sense. I do like the way the individual images feel balanced, even though the leaves obviously are of different sizes.

    I’m not sure about the central image, myself. It feels a little heavy to me, but I’m not sure what I’d do with it. I toyed with all sorts of things in my mind: a group of red leaves, empty twigs, even a closeup of nothing but tree bark. It will be fun to see how you develop these, and turn more bits of autumn into art.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you Linda. Deciding which leaves to post and how to arrange them was something I thought about a lot. I eventually decided to start top left with the greenest and end up with the most decayed/brown leaves at the bottom right – a gradation of colour, which is what happens in Autumn as the leaves turn brown. I’m not happy with the central image. You are right, it’s too much like a mound of leaves, it needs to be more artistic I think

  6. Jane Lurie says:

    What and interesting idea and presentation, Andy. I am fascinated by leaves. Beautifully done.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you so much Jane. Leaves are so often taken for granted but when you collect a few and look at them, or scan the ground in Autun you begin to realise how beautiful they are. It’s a foggy start to the day here but the colours of the beech leaves are stunning – colour is still developing.

  7. Lignum Draco says:

    Interesting project. The stem of each leaf is to the bottom left corner. Was this deliberate?

    • LensScaper says:

      Yes, I felt there needed to be some coherence in this panel and that could be achieved by orientating all the leaves in the same way. It’s a project that is still developing in my mind as well as on screen.

  8. Pingback: Collages | LensScaper

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