Unexpected Study


- Irvine Regional Park, Southern California -


Another gorgeous winter afternoon at my favorite duck pond in southern California (Irvine Regional Park.) Low 70's with a few passing clouds (after the morning fog burned off.) Lots of good photographic opportunities with the ducks. A Mandarin pair floated by at fairly close range (for Mandarins anyway.) That was fun!


But something different captivated my attention today. There were the most wonderful occasional breezy periods that lasted maybe 20 seconds each. The breeze carried with it the faint perfume of earthy decay and a welcome warm gentle hug. Each little breeze session would dislodge a small number of the remaining leaves from the nearby sycamore trees. At first I was getting mad because the leaves were mostly landing in the lakes and cluttering up my duck shots. (I like clean pretty water that complements the ducks.) After a while I started to notice that some of the fallen leaves looked rather nice and somewhat interesting as they slowly floated by. So I shifted my attention to the floating leaves and began making photographs.


Most of the leaves that were falling were brown and brittle. They crunched loudly under my boots as I walked about the woodlands and lake shore.


In Southern California autumn seems to linger well into early winter. Even today I found many pockets of sycamores with leaves still on display in brilliant autumn color in shades of yellow, red and orange. Add a little back-light and they were stunning. Once in a while I would come across a floating leaf that still held "autumn color", but unfortunately none were aesthetically pleasing.


When I think of leaves and think of autumn I think of aspens. Aspen leaves are flat, roundish and somewhat heart shaped. About the size of a fifty cent piece, or for those of you that don't know what is fifty cent piece is, think the diameter of a toilet paper roll. Delicate and pretty. A gentle breeze can wiggle the aspen foliage in a manner that makes it look like the whole tree is shivering.

Sycamore leaves have more geometry. There can be three to five lobes and they have sharp saw tooth like edges. A mature leaf is about the size of a baseball glove for a two year old (good luck finding one of those.) Sitting lake side watching the occasional leaf drift by I first noticed the jagged shapes, sharp edges and underside veining's.

After more observations I began to notice and pay more attention to the reflections. I also came to the conclusion that fallen leaves are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike.

A little further into the morning I found myself walking along the lake shore looking for more pleasing subjects. The breeze or lack thereof changed the texture of the water. When calm, some of the reflections were remarkably sharp.

The lower light found in shady sections of the lake added a little bit of mystery to the overall look and feel of a shot.

This was an unexpected, educational and fun little exercise. I can't wait to what I stumble onto next.


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