This autumn has turned out to be wet, rainy, snowy and dark – not offering a whole lot in terms of opportunities for photographs.
The dragonfly days are long gone – it turns out that the trip I talked about on October 8 was the last of the year – I had hopped and expected for more, but the heavy snow fell shortly after that. I saw on dragon a week for so after the snow, but now I’m sure they are gone for good – well, till next May at least. A moth sat on the wall of my garage for the last 3 weeks. One day it moved about a foot. Otherwise it just sat there. A briefly warm day with high winds moved it on it’s way.
So that’s it for the bugs.
When I think of fall I think of glorious landscapes with bright colored trees and azure blue skies. Well, autumn can be like that. When it is it is often like that just for a few weeks at most, sometime just a few days. Getting in the right place at the right time can be a challenge. A suddenly drastic hard freeze, or major leave-sticking snowfall, can make the trees abruptly drop their leaves, leaving little chance to catch the color. A dry summer or wet fall can also mean a poor color season.
As I sit here this morning, the tulip tree outside my windows is a blaze of brilliant yellow leaves. It’s right on schedule since it always turns to bright yellow for Halloween. The other nearby trees, though, have either lost their leaves or are clinging to a few brownish / green bits of withered foliage. For them the season has passed.
It looks like the shots I took along the River Vista Trail at the Kalamazoo nature center will be it for fall colors this year. There are still a few places along the lake that seem to turn later in the season, and I’ll give those a try yet.
But for now I have decided to look back at pull some retrospective shots out of the portfolio. In part, this decision results from a project I’m currently working on, which has me culling together landscape shots.
I visited the River Vista Trail in 2003 for the first time. This is part of the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and the land bears the scars of past gravel mining operations. The soil is dry and gravelly, and the landscape rolls with hills that reflect the way the miners left it more than the way the nature made it. At any rate, it is one of the few areas I know of locally where there are truly sweeping vistas that can be photographed – typically Midwestern landscapes are all about finding the little slice of the landscape that rises above clutter and has something to say.
It’s hard to believe how much has changed, photographically, since 2003. Back then I had not yet moved to a digital SLR, and still had not made the transition to medium format film for landscape work. I had moved away from the limitations of transparency film for landscape application, and so all of these shots were taken on color negative film – Kodak Supra 100, to be precise.
Back in 2003 I scanned these, but then made the mistake of running them through an old image processing program that could not deal with 16 bit tiffs. My intent was to compress the TIFFS, since I was running out of disk space on the computer I was using then. The result was that the scans came out with wildly distorted colors – red skies and blue trees – which was interesting but not what I was looking for. I re-scanned a few shots, tried making a few large prints, and then just gave up on the project. 35mm, while better than digital, still lacks the resolution to make really large prints of highly detailed subjects.
But then – who needs large prints for everything anyhow? My attitudes have shifted a bit – these days I print the photo to the size it works at, and leave it be.
I’ve also developed a taste for B&W images. So after re-scanning the film from three years ago, I re-mixed several as mono-chrome shots. Using the channel mixer in PhotoShop – the standard process for converting images from color to mono – gives you a lot of flexibility. It’s very easy to simulate the effect of a B&W shot taken with a particular filter (like a #25 red) just by adjusting the channels.
And so, with the retrospect is the remix – and looking at the notebooks and storage boxes filled with thousands of negatives – I’m getting a sense that I could keep busy with photography for years without ever snapping the shutter again.
But what fun would that be?
Here are color photos from the River Vista Trail - followed by some B&W remixes: