Fall is like a symphony for photographers.
After winter, we dust off our instruments, (I know that many of you shoot throughout the colder months, but just bear with me for the sake of this metaphor), we take stock of our and our skills, and once again, we begin practicing and reacquainting ourselves with our equipment.
As the first colors of spring emerge from beneath the melting snow, we ease into our rudiments, practicing basic skills like exposure and composition, as if we’re brushing up on our scales and chords.
When muscle memory returns and our fingers find their familiar places on the aperture ring, the EV dial, and the shutter, our hands grip our instruments with returning confidence. As technical proficiency beings to flow more freely, our creative brains let loose and allow our eyes to start gathering the shapes, colors and contrasting elements in the landscape into concise visual collections.
As the weeks and months progress, we see noticeable progress in our technical ability and our compositional talents as we cleverly orchestrate foregrounds and backgrounds, color and contrast, shape and shadow. Our visual concertos become more intricate and elaborate, our intended messages more clear.
With summer in full swing, we’re hitting our stride, photographing on a regular basis, playing regularly with light and tone. We’re playing gigs in different locations, and always trying new things, working with different modes and altered scales in our constant attempt to redefine and expand our message and convey our feelings and impressions of the world.
The Crescendo of Color
Of course, in the back of our minds, we know the fall symphony is coming. That one big performance. The crescendo of color, when the hues of the earth change from stable green to fiery, attention grabbing, visual alarming tones of red, yellow and orange.
That one special time when the mid to higher latitudes of the planet become a patchwork of technicolor magic and we get to experience brilliant colors that only show themselves for a few short weeks every year.
As the season approaches, we can feel the sense of alarm and anticipation within ourselves, too. We know the increasingly complex visual arrangements can only go on so long before they peak.
We only have a brief time to perform as technically and visually adept artists and outdoor photographers as we strive to capture a photo essay’s worth of compelling autumn imagery before the big finale. It almost becomes a race to explore and create a collection of visually stunning imagery before the final note sounds, before those magical colors fade and the foliage begins to wither and fall from the branches.
As outdoor photographers, it would seem that these brief few weeks of autumn are what we practice for all year, even if it’s a subconscious anticpation. This is the season many of us look forward to most out of all the different times of year.
The truth is that every season is fleeting. Every activity, season, magical display of light and every exciting or especially serene moment is merely a momentary event in the course of our non-stop lives. We practice with our cameras in the hope that we can capture any of these special moments that occur throughout the year.
We strive to make intriguing photos of notable moments and events no matter when they happen, but there is something about the brief season of fall that captures our imagination and creative urges like no other time of year.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many symbolic elements intertwined with fall, aspects like change, comfort, balance (the equinox typically denotes equal durations of day and night), letting go, impermanence, harvest and the beginning of the increasingly massive holiday season.
Fall has always been a special time for humans, but for photographers and visual artists, it seems to be even more special, simply because we’re even more attuned to those magical displays of color.
The Symphony of Autumn is definitely underway here in Alaska. Down in town, we’re just starting to hear the first notes of the introduction; up on the high tundra, it’s already well into the third and fourth movements and heading towards a magnificent finale. The weather has been glorious lately, which has made for some very enjoyable and satisfying fall photography.
It doesn’t last very long up here, and soon we’ll have snow, but not before we have a few big wind storms blow all the brittle, brown leaves off the trees. Then we’ll be on our final crash course towards winter.
I wish you the best of luck with your own fall performances this season. This is what you’ve been working towards. This is what you’ve been waiting for all year. Make the best of it, and have fun.