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:
- Find a tile or paver and stick with it – that way the background is consistent.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.