Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (and the Leaf)

01 September 2014


1. Leaf, Oakleaf Hydrangea, iPhone 4s; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Leaf, Oakleaf Hydrangea, iPhone 4s; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Leaf, Oakleaf Hydrangea, iPhone 4s; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Leaf, Oakleaf Hydrangea, iPhone 4s; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why.


“Ode to the Autumn Leaf”

Prelude to epiphany of time and place.                                                                                   Tossed, scattered, cheered, and fallen,                                                                                                                                 Rising to grace.                                                                                                                                 Then nourishing spring’s renewal.

In the Lens section are two photographs that I took a few weeks ago. Each leaf hugged tightly onto branches of a native oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Regardless of the season these plants have features that keep my attention: I want to see their metamorphosis.

Their intense green shades encouraged me to examine the spectrum of plants set in rows that lined a stone wall. But I could not stop myself; I converted the photographs to black and white. (The second is taken with Hipstamatic, one of my favorite apps).

Subsequently, leaves have begun their merry pre-autumn dance: descending, pirouetting and posturing for the next phase. Slowly, over the next few months they will be coaxed to change colors. That drama moves from subtle or profound, depending on many variables.

It’s an autumn ritual that I gather their fallen bodies, and place them on my gardens as winter blankets. Or add them to my compost bins. They become golden coins that bring wealth to the earth. I also discover ones that force me to photograph their unique qualities.

My “Ode to the Autumn Leaf”” salutes the bounty that comes from each leaf whose remains enrich the soil. Each leaf has its distinct character; each leaf plays a major role in the life cycle that gives the root system competition for #1 performer of its duties.

Designs are smooth, jagged, scalloped, prickly, silky, serrated, pointed, round, angular, and endlessly fascinating. Patterns vary, colors vary, sizes vary, shapes vary.

In their early stages they are cunningly shy. As they mature, they boldly exude flare and grace. We owe them too much, because their part in nature is supremely critical to photosynthesis. Thus life on earth depends on them.

When forests are leveled or land cemented, habitats and landscapes for tree plantings are diminished. It’s not complicated. We must stop the decimation. We must honor Mother Nature’s progeny.

My conversions about leaves always come full circle to climate and environmental changes. If you are as serious as I am about these pressing topics, consider attending the upcoming United Nations Climate Summit in New York City (23 September 2014 at U.N. Headquarters). Or go to the People’s Climate March in Manhattan on Sunday, 21 September.

These events are part of Climate Week in New York City, and as expressed on the United Nations’ website: “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society…to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.” My fingers and toes are crossed.

Meanwhile, take a stroll through a local park, your backyard, your neighborhood, or a botanical garden to see the gradual change in the landscape. It’s that time of year where the outdoor visual field overflows with color variations that are above and on the ground.

During every season leaves provide multiple transformations. In springtime they fill the landscape with hues of greens, reds, and yellows. In summertime their abundance gives depth to the landscape as well as habitats and shade for animals, birds, gardens, and insects. In autumn they sweep across the horizon with a color range from bronze to crimson to purple to brown. In winter they give new life to the forest floor. Those are a few of their legacies, which help to provide rhythms of the seasons and sustain life as we know it.

Leaves may be taken for granted, but without them our existence would be impossible.  They are quiet heroines of our planet’s health. But I am also a staunch devotee, because they are endlessly leavening and fascinating in their individualism, which lures me to capture them through my lens.

Tip of the Week:

Over the last few decades I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time during morning and evening hours seeking natural light, and those subjects that warrant early and late sunrays. The swing from morning light to late afternoon light are the golden hours. The rising sun and other conditions bring a cool vibe that glows with a bluish tint. The setting sun and other conditions provide a warm light that tends to be more pink, orange, red or violet. Each are times to find those seasonal leaves that suit your aesthetics. Here are some suggestions about shooting them: Use the best available natural light; find light that is not too intense and hard (avoid mid-day photo shoots); focus on an area of the leaf and get close up for details; use the light to compliment and respect the leaf; take images at any stage of a leaf’s development; try to show designs, patterns and shapes in a new way. If you are determined to capture a leaf and the weather is too windy, bring specimens indoor. Then tape (at top of stem) it onto a window that has considerable natural light; steady your Smartphone or use a tripod. Light that filters through the leaf will exhibit its qualities. Of course, there are always light tables. Let me know if these hints help.

View other entries for this week’s challenge–Nature:


If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature.

2nd Monday: Macro.

3rd Monday: Black and White.

4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Design, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (and the Leaf)

  1. Enriching, nurturing, a season’s reflection of the many blessings then and now. Great post!

  2. Maria F. says:

    I love these the best, the texture and detail is unsurpassed.

  3. The empty spaces say as much as the detail of the leaf. Very zen!! Love these!

  4. pattimoed says:

    Lovely shots, Sally! I especially l like the texture on the first one. I love how you put it: “…leaves have begun their merry pre-autumn dance: descending, pirouetting and posturing for the next phase…” Well said!

  5. Not only are the shots gorgeous but what you say is so true. Im watching the animals right now as they are fattening up. Those leaves provide camouflage, warmth, a bed…and so much color in the autumn. Happy shooting and thanks so for the visit 🙂

  6. Su Leslie says:

    I love the simplicity of this week’s shots Sally. The black & white works well with this. Here’s my crop for the week:

  7. Amy says:

    Both are beautiful, the second one specially! B&W shows the texture so well. Thank you, Sally!

  8. thirdeyemom says:

    Gorgeous shots. I especially like the second one with the hole through the leaves. Did you place the leaves ad organize them for the shot or did you find them this way? Beautiful! As for the UN Climate conference you should definitely go! I heard about it to and wanted to go but I will already be in NYC for the social iOS summit a few days before. Also a fellow blogger I know works a lot with the Climate Reality Project started by Al Gore. You should look into perhaps working with them maybe if you are interested. They do a lot of great things.

  9. I am a black and white girl. You have me thinking about fall…

    • Laurie, it’s on our doorstep in the Mid Atlantic. Everywhere I turn leaves are making their slow descent. Even some trees are turning colors. It’s too early for this transformation. I’m in summer mode and feel a bit of a shock. But I embrace autumn for its gifts. Thanks so much.

  10. Suzanne says:

    These are interesting photo tips – thanks. Here’s my contribution to the challenge

  11. lumar1298 says:

    I like the first one due to the shape, but both are great shots…

  12. Steven says:

    As always, good stuff and informative. I learn a lot here. 🙂

  13. A very nice ode to autumn leaf. My favourite this time is the second one. It has such a tangible structure and texture. And I love the tight framing and the purplish tint.

  14. Gallivanta says:

    It’s the fresh spring leaves we are enjoying now. A joy to see them. Each and every one of them. 🙂

  15. Tina Schell says:

    Lovely captures Sally – I liked them both because of the intricate details. I do kind of miss the color with leaves but I think you see more without it. Nicely done.

  16. Lovely, Sally, you’ve got me ready to go back outside this evening to photograph my Oak-leaf Hydrangeas too. 🙂 The first photo is my favorite and I really enjoyed your “golden coins” comment. We use all our fallen leaves for compost here as well.

    • Lisa, I’m pleased that you understand the value of autumn’s legacy of leaves. They bring us joy in so many ways. One of my favorites is the fun children have as they play and toss them. Thanks so much.

  17. Angeline M says:

    Happy Labor Day! I love the second shot, it has a silver look to me. Beautiful detail in both. I shot the photo in my post yesterday in Walnut Creek; feelings of fall in the air.

  18. scillagrace says:

    …and happy 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act on Wednesday! Timely post!

  19. Wonderful detail in both images Sally and excellent post.

  20. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I forgot to add: I like your first image. The B&W really shows off the textures of the leaf.

  21. Each has its own qualities: strong, evocative, graphic, fine design, so I refuse to choose! 😀 But I am drawn to the warmth in your Hipsta shot. I love your window-taping tip! Another way to employ natural light.

  22. lulu says:

    I so enjoyed reading this post and love your phrase “pre autumn dance”.

  23. I prefer the first picture. But, you’re going to laugh, the second one made me think of the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Okay, it’s still early here and I’m barely awake! 😀

  24. The leaves have started falling here, too, Sally; not many, but enough to presage the coming of autumn. I’m drawn to the first shot, some combination of shape and texture, but I like that the second one has sort of a face to it.

    Happy Labor Day and have a wonderful photographic week!


  25. I’m drawn to the square crop, but I love the balance of negative space in the top one – a nice balance of texture and background.

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