Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Using the Fuji X-E1 in place of my Hasselblad to photograph late autumn leaves

A long time ago I began a project of photographing the fallen leaves of late autumn, leaves past their prime, leaves that had already lost their brilliant color and vibrancy and were in a final state of decay. The project was inspired by a passage from Autumnal Tints, by Henry David Thoreau, and is quoted at the end of this post. I have repeated this project every year since in homage to Thoreau and his keen observation.

I had spent my career photographing the beauty of autumn in its prime, the brilliant colors of leaves still on the trees and filling the countryside with a colorful palette of warm autumn tints. Thoreau taught me to drill down deeper, not to stop at the surface gloss. He found significant meaning for life infused in the even the tiniest and seemingly insignificant elements of nature that abounded around him.

I treated the leaves as sculptural elements and photographed them in my studio on film with a Hasselblad 500CM. I have repeated this project every year since, changing the style of photography each year while trying to remain faithful to the original theme. This year I went back to my roots, however instead of using the Hasselblad, I relied on a Fuji X-E1 which I put into its square format in homage to the Hasselblad. 

This is one of t he first late autumn leaf sepia toned prints I did with the Hasselblad about twenty years ago.
The images below were all taken this year with the Fuji X-E1, a 35mm lens set to f/8, and either a +2 or +4 close-up filter. The light is a mix of soft window illumination and one small tungsten lamp. I kept he light balance towards the warmer tungsten hues.

"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."

Henry David Thoreau from Autumnal Tints, written in 1862 as he lay dying from tuberculosis. He was expounding on the difference between looking and seeing when he also wrote: "Objects are concealed from our view, not so much because they are out of the course of our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on them....

Thoreau took the time to look closely at the most ordinary objects in his path. His examination always found meaning beyond the thing itself. Photography should be like that.  


  1. I love this post. One of my favorite writers, incorporated in a story about my favorite art, and relating to my favorite season. Thank you. Well written reminder that photography can be as much about what it shows the photographer as it is what we show the viewer.

  2. The juxtaposition of the harsh and crinkly leaves against the soft shadowy background is perfect. Colours aren't even needed to create these compositions. Wonderful work.

  3. Very inspiring set of photos