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Focus Fumble for Fading Fall Flame

October 22, 2011
Fading Fall Flame, Calgary

Fading Fall Flame, Calgary

As I alluded in an earlier entry here, I thought autumn would arrive like a ton of bricks this year. But after an initial quick snap, the season leveled out into a more graceful progression of color, shortening days, and increasing evening chill. It was like watching a slow-motion wave — unlike many past years when colorful foliage vanished almost completely after a first hard frost followed by a wind storm, this year the color has been slipping away gradually, in pockets. One stand of trees will be done with its leaves, while another is full of rich autumn foliage, and yet another is still mostly green. As each week has gone by, the season has progressed at a leisurely pace, or so it has seemed.

It’s been good. And I’m looking forward to continued great conditions early next month for the Light Matters Masterclass: Creative Expression workshop. (A couple of spots are still open, if you have some time on your hands November 2 – 6 and have been thinking it would be a good week to work on improving your photography.)

One day this week I needed a break from cataloging thousands of images, so I went out with the Pentax 645D to do some casual handheld shooting in Fish Creek Provincial Park, on the south side of the city. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and I felt refreshed and no sense of urgency to “do” anything; just soaking it in would have been fine. But, after all, I did have a camera with me… it would have been a shame to have brought it along and not used it. 🙂

Walking along one path, I caught the brilliant glow of late afternoon light on a remaining patch of colorful leaves. Moving around, I was able to set them against a darker wooded background. A breeze was blowing, shaking things around, and what struck me more than the specific details of leaves and trees was a more abstract sense of glowing color in motion. So I set a wide aperture on the 200mm telephoto lens, deliberately threw it out of focus in various ways, and photographed the leaves from different angles. My goal was to cast different parts of the colorful, light foreground and shadowy background into a blurred kaleidoscopic abstraction. Sometimes the detail you can’t make out is more powerful than the detail you can see, and thereby dismiss as mundane; that’s part of the basis of impressionism.

I liked this frame best. It has a feeling of mystery and mood that an in-focus picture of the same subject matter would utterly lack. So my fumble was deliberate, and I recovered it myself. (Oh no, was that a sports metaphor?!) To finish off the treatment during development, I gave it a darker tone and color as a bit of edgy signal that we are, after all, headed for winter.

Fall’s flame is fading. But as of today it’s not out. Not just yet.

Have you had a good fall? Perhaps you’re waiting eagerly for winter? Maybe you love, or don’t at all get, abstract or impressionistic photos? Feel free to drop a note…

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