Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Praise of a Leaf...

   After the inspiration of my latest photography book, "The Garden at Orgeval", which features photographs by Paul Strand made late in his life in his own garden, I went for a walk in my own backyard.  I've written before on photographing the familiar, the close to hand, but, honestly, I wasn't all that familiar with the woods that surround my home here in Western Maine, at least photographically speaking.  After hurricane Sandy blew through this past week, I thought I'd explore my property and see what damage it had done.  More to the point, I wanted to experience what Strand called his "limitless world" in my own backyard.
   Now I am sure some people would say that there is nothing drabber than a Maine woodland in November, especially on an overcast day, which today was. There's nothing of value to photograph here; the contrast is too flat.  The old Me, the "pre-contemplative" Me, would have agreed.  Now I know better than to make that kind of assumption.

    I sat on a fallen log, not a victim of this storm but a long past one or perhaps it had just succumbed to old age.  I closed my eyes and breathed in the rich, earthy scents.  I love November in Maine.  The glorious colors of October are gone and the bare bones of the landscape are clear; it feels hushed, waiting for the first snowfall to put it quietly to sleep.  A rustle to my left revealed a pheasant looking for, well, whatever pheasants look for in amongst the leaves.  My presence didn't phase the bird. Its scratching, however, made me look down.  A small, bone toned leaf lay atop a blanket of russet oak leaves and it fairly shimmered in the afternoons diffused light.  For me, it was an astounding sight.  I looked around and found several places where other leaves of this kind lay in sharp contrast to their subdued surroundings.  I made several photographs in praise of those leaves.  Had I said there was no contrast on such a grey day?

   When I looked at my photographs later on my computer screen it made me realize, yet again, why I love the monochrome image so much.  The luminosity of these leaves is wonderful and simply not as evident in the color version.  This leaf, like all its kin, has lived it's life; green in summer, golden in autumn and, now, forever silver in my monochrome prints.  Strand was right, the artists world is limitless and I now plan to make regular visits to the small woodland behind my house.

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