Autumn: Season of colour & movement.

It’s now officially autumn here in the UK, and I for one am looking forward to the fabulous colours that the season can offer.  The brightest colours in autumn come from the Acers (maples), so a while ago I went to Westonbirt Arboretum which has a fabulous collection of them. 

On my arrival the weather was horrible!  The sky was grey, it was very windy, and it was raining.  The thick clouds made it very dark, which I thought wasn’t going to help with my creative photography.  However, in this case I was wrong… 

I realised that I would not be able to take hand-held images, as the light level was too low, so I set up my trusty Uniloc tripod.  It’s perfect for an uneven ground surface as its legs are independently adjustable.  The wind was causing the trees to move about, so I decided to use that movement creatively.   Selecting a red maple as my subject, I used a small aperture to give a shutter speed of a few seconds, and during the exposure gave a pop of flash from a hand-held flash gun. 

"Blurry maple 1" by Derek Gale

 As you can see, the movement during some of the long exposure gave a misty red feel to the leaves.  The pop of flash helped give some sharpness, and stopped a falling leaf in mid-drop! 

I liked the effect of the movement so I chose another maple, an orange one this time, to see just how misty I could get it. 

"Blurry maple 2" by Derek Gale

 This exposure, of about 5 seconds, gave a sort of “time -average” of where the leaves were as they moved.  The tree’s trunk is nice and sharp – it didn’t move – but the leaves have become very abstract.  It looks more like the smoke from a coloured flare than a tree.  What this type of image shows is that photographs aren’t just about a “moment in time”, they’re also about the effect of time. 

In the first image I used a pop of flash to give a little bit of sharpness along with the movement blur.  In the next image the flash is more important. 

"Blurry maple 3" by Derek Gale

 Having removed the camera from the tripod, I tried a number of images where I moved the camera around during the exposure, and fired the on-camera flash.  This image is of lots of different coloured maple leaves at my feet.  I didn’t want a really long exposures, so I opened up the lens aperture and set the shutter speed to about 1/15 of  a second.  I quickly moved the camera in a semi-circle during the exposure. The camera movement has given a fabulous shape, and the flash has recorded a sharp image of the leaves underneath the blur. 

"Blurry maple 4" by Derek Gale

 Selecting some different leaves, and moving the camera up and down instead of in a semi-circle, gave an even more abstract image. The wet leaves lit by the flash shone back and gave a bit more contrast.  Here the fact that it was raining really helped! 

So, despite my initial misgivings about the weather, and how it might compromise my creative photography, I was pleased with my images.  Next time I go to Westonbirt I’ll make sure it’s raining!
 
We’re currently putting together the programme for next year’s Photo Treks and Photography Training, where you can learn photographic techniques like these.  Do subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to be kept up to date with developments.
Cheers,
Derek

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