True Colors

As Tisen and I stroll along Stringer’s ridge, my feet drag through a thick layer of leaves.  As they crunch and swirl in front of my feet, I remember what fall meant to me as a child.

Halloween was, of course, central to the fall experience.  Dressing up in some costume that never quite looked as glorious as I expected it to (except the year my mother cut and sewed her wedding dress into a Cinderella gown for my costume), parading through the yards of our neighbors to go door-to-door for halloween candy.

Even though it was a special occasion, we were only allowed to walk through the yards where adjacent neighbors had their porch lights on and were giving out candy.  Some yards, we got to crunch our way through un-raked leaves while other yards were sparsely dotted only with leaves that had fallen in the past hour.

Stringer’s ridge has no gardener to obsessively clear the leaves away.  They fall and create a weaving of color over the broken and dilapidated asphalt that marks the ridge’s recent history.  As we leave the nearby urban residential area and enter into the preserve, the leaves become denser and the views become more colorful.

Tisen has taken his time getting here.  Me with my camera stopping to shoot frequently had nothing to do with how long our walk has taken, I’m sure.  Tisen needed to sniff and mark every mailbox on the way through the neighborhood.  I tried to coax him on his way, but he insisted in at least making an attempt to leave his mark, even if it was only a gesture by the time we got to about the 10th mailbox.

As we crunch our way through the leaves now, I don’t hurry him, but I do occasionally try to get him to sniff a yard or two in one direction or another so I can shoot while he sniffs.  I wonder how many photographers struggle to get the angle they want because they are walking a 70 pound dog who doesn’t always cooperate?  Sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m the one on the leash.

Given the slowness of our progress and my need to be somewhere in the near future, we take the shortest route to the overlook.  It’s not an overlook in the sense that anyone built a structure or anything.  But, they did clear a few small trees so the view of downtown was unobstructed.

I love this view.  You can see the best part of the riverfront as you look across a sea of colorful trees.  It’s hard to believe there are so many trees between me and home as I look down the ridge and across the neighborhood Tisen and I have just walked through.

I say a silent thank you to the good people of Chattanooga who had the foresight to make this a preserve and then we turn to walk home.

Fall Impressions

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.