With no yard, no rake, and no worries, I was feeling a little detached from the experience of fall. But a long walk up to Stringer’s Ridge, currently peaking in color, got me back to a childhood full of crunching through leaves.
As Tisen and I made our way up to the ridge, I looked up and there was an oak tree shaking its top like my grandmother shaking out a rug. It looked like it was trying to shake its loose leaves free like a dog shaking water out of its fur.
By the time I was ready to shoot, it stopped. I stood still and waited. I could hear the wind, I figured it would start again. I just had to be patient. Tisen pulled at the lead, catching a new smell just out of reach. I took a step forward to give him something to do and then stood still again, waiting.
We were still at the edge of urban neighborhood and nature preserve, standing in the middle of a residential street. I had to step to one side when I realized a car was barreling down the hill. We walked a little ways further and I stopped again, Tisen stopping and giving me a puzzled look as I once more turned my eyes to the tree top.
Eventually, I turned and shot some brilliant leaves across the street until I realized there was a car stopped, waiting for me to finish so it didn’t drive through my shot. I smiled and waved and turned back to my tree. It was starting to wear me out. I checked my watch and realized I couldn’t afford to stand there waiting much longer; we were going to run out of time for our walk. I sighed and off we went with no shots of the swirling cloud of leaves.
Somewhere between that uncooperative tree and the start of the Stringer’s Ridge trail, I thought of trying to pan with a falling leaf. I don’t know exactly what made me think about trying it, but I sure did amuse myself in the process. It’s not easy to pan in general. You have to start the motion of the camera so you’re smoothly following the thing in motion, then press the shutter while you continue to smoothly pan. This is more difficult than it sounds.
A falling leaf is not predictable. It gets picked up, shot off course, and suddenly picks up speed when the edge starts slicing through the air.
I didn’t think a single one of my panning shots turned out when I was standing there reviewing my shots. But when I looked at them on the computer, I was actually quite pleased. These are minimally processed, although in some cases I brushed in adjustments to the single leaf I was panning with to make it more noticeable.
I am beginning to see a wall covered with images of falling objects in my future.
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