For too many days this autumn I have had commitments which have kept me indoors. I’ve caught “glimpses” of
autumn through the lens while conducting workshops and when out for family hikes, but I’ve not had the chance to move slowly and think about the images I’ve made. I’m that kind of photographer – slow and purposeful, working on a tripod, waiting for the light and the wind. I need to spend time with my subject familiarizing myself with its nuances, changing my composition inching closer, slightly to one side and a little lower. American photographer Fred Picker looks for the place where the subject “is looking back at me”.
I’ve come to learn exactly what he means. The composition needs to feel right. I need time to photograph without distractions and this morning is just that time.
As I got out of the car, I suddenly realized how quiet it was here. I could hear the morning rush of the city over to the west, but here at Starkey Hill, I could hear the birds sing and the wind rush through the now brown goldenrod. The grey sky seemed to be keeping the sound in .
Autumn is now weeks old, and the best of the colour long-past, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m want to celebrate the subtle ochres, yellows and browns that grace the latter part of autumn. The wind won’t help things, though. I like small apertures and long exposures. Shooting at ISO200 will help. This is a recent change up from the base ISO of 100. On the E-30, dynamic range is about 2/3s of a stop greater at ISO 200. I want to take advantage of that. I’ve also reduced the contrast to allow the histogram to show me every detail.
It’s so easy to ignore colour after the peak yellows, oranges and reds of the maples and birch throughout Ontario. There is still plenty of colour in herbaceous plants and wildflowers that fill the fields, There is even the odd purple aster to provide contrast to palette of warmth that is everywhere. The goldenrods first catch my attention. The warmth of the various browns contrasts nicely with the cold grey of the leafless shrubs in the background.
As I hike along, stopping to set up and make a few photographs, the path transitions from field into pine plantation. Finally I crest the moraine and look down into a sea of golden yellow. Of course, the maples have all dropped, but the beech trees are now broadcasting their autumn glory. Soon the sun starts peaking through the morning cloud and the forest becomes a fireworks show of colour. The subtle colour I came out today to photograph have erupted. What a treat.
After a few more images, I realize that it is about noon. At this time of year, here at this latitude, the sun is low enough that one can photograph all day and still have great light. But other commitments beckon. These three hours have been the most artistically productive three hours in months. It’s a rare day for outdoor and nature photographers to have all the elements woking together in one;s favour. Of course, that being said, if I get out more often, then I just might be surprised at what I can make of the ambient conditions on any given day.