Saturday, November 15, 2014

Late autumn leaves photographed with a Fuji X-camera

It is that time of year again where I pay homage to Thoreau. He wrote an essay entitled, "Autumnal Tints" in which he talks about walking through the woods in late autumn after the all the leaves have fallen and the brilliant colors of the season have faded, and begin to shrivel up into brittle brown arthritic shapes. Thoreau saw their final stage of life for its sculptural beauty and wished that humans could learn to pass their final years with such dignity.

I began photographing this series over twenty years ago and have continued every year since. In the beginning I was photographing the leaves on film with a Hasselblad 500C. Today I am using what I sometimes refer to as my new Hasselblad, a Fuji X-camera. A Fuji X-camera allows me to see the image in black & white and square, very similar to the Hasselblad, and I find that the results of the Fuji camera -- in this case an X-T1 with a Zeiss Touit 50mm macro lens-- have a film quality to them very reminiscent of what I achieved with my old Hasselblad.

Thoreau finalized his essay on the final passage of autumn leaves in 1862 as he lay dying from tuberculosis. If you care to read the inspiration for this annual photographic event, here it is:

"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."

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