As a photographer, I have spent many years photographing the peak colors of autumn. After reading Thoreau's essay, I took a new look at the leaves and began to realized that even after they have lost their brighter colors and begun their process of decay they display a sculptural beauty. I began photographing these late leaves of autumn in the 1980's with my Hasselblad, collecting the leaves and bringing them into the studio to be treated like any elegant prop and given a special treatment of lighting to bring out their best qualities. I have continued this project every year since.
The photos below are the results from this year's session of photographing for Autumnal Tints. They were taken on both the Fuji X-T1 with a Zeiss Touit 50mm macro lens, and the X100T set to macro mode with its 23mm f/2 lens. The optical qualities of each of these lenses are different. The Zeiss Touit is a superbly sharp modern lens producing crisp detail even when used wide open at f/2.8, as it was here. The Fujis 23mm f/2 lens is a gem in its own way. I like to use it wide open at f/2 where it has a softening quality similar to using older, uncoated optics on a digital camera.
The color images were processed as 16-bit RAW files into Classic Chrome and muted further by reducing the vibrance. Then, in Photoshop, I changed the color from Adobe RGB to LAB and punched up the muted tones. The colors are still very mute, but have a greater depth to the color range. Once finished the image is then converted back to RGB.
Here is the quote from Thoreau's "Autumnal Tints" that inspired me to begin this project so many years ago. I reread it every year before I begin to photograph. The essay, "Autumnal Tints", is perhaps the best piece ever written on the subject of the changing leaves and what we might learn from it.
"It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently lay themselves down and turn to mould!--painted of a thousand hues, and fit to make the beds of us living. So they troop to their last resting place, light and frisky. They put on no weeds, but merrily they go scampering over the earth, selecting the spot, choosing a lot, ordering no iron fence, whispering all through the woods about it,--some choosing the spot where the bodies of men are mouldering beneath, and meeting them half-way. How many flutterings before they rest quietly in their graves! They that soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again, and are laid low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree, and afford nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on high! They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as gracefully and as ripe,--with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed their bodies, as they do their hair and nails."