This week we’ve endured one of those Ohio hairpin turns of weather. The temperatures ranged from 87 to 36 degrees. The leaves aren’t quite ready for a massive change, but sugar maples well exposed to sun on curb lawns are well into their color changes. Some tree canopies on forest margins have already shed their leaves.
I did a fall photo walk last weekend, too, but I wasn’t pleased with a single picture. Such displeasure is an occasional hazard of photography. It’s like a bad hair day, a phrase I seldom hear nowadays, as if we as culture had conquered that problem, despite evidence to the contrary.
As for other flora, some wildflowers still linger. There are purple fall asters who didn’t yield to my lens in their disorder. Some wild sunflowers persist as well.
This morning I traveled to Kendrick Woods to see how the wildflowers are faring. We’ve had unreliable rainfall and higher than average temperatures throughout most of the summer this year, so I expected the wildflower prairie to look a bit different this year. As expected, the prairie was not quite as abundant as I’ve seen it in the past. However, there were plenty enough blooms to justify the trip.
Now is the time the wild sunflowers reign. Different varieties will take their turn blooming until the first frost. I also spotted some dame’s rocket and wild indigo, whose pods will age into purple-black before summer’s end. I looked up the red wildflower and found that is called Silene virginica, or fire pink.
I haven’t dipped into black and white photography in many years. In a technical sense, the images in this post are monochrome rather than B&W. There aren’t many pixels in these images that are truly black or white. With that aside, I should mention that I don’t tend toward precision. I’m the kind of person who thinks napkins are redundant if paper towels are on hand. When I write B&W, I really mean monochrome.
I used to do photo walks with my camera set to B&W, but then I read a digital photography tip that eroded my interest in it. It’s a tip that is so widespread that it meets the criteria of common knowledge I suppose: shoot in color and change to monochrome during post-processing. It’s simple to take color away but almost impossible to add it (with fidelity) to a monochrome image. I can see the wisdom of this practice. There’s the serendipity of colliding with the unusual. I wouldn’t want to miss a color picture of clowns training falcons in the wild, for instance.
The problem with this approach is that, for me at least, shooting in color tunes into a different way of seeing. I love highly saturated colors enriched further with morning or evening light. I just don’t have it in me to adopt a high-key, muted color style that is widespread on social media. When I take color photos, color is my highest priority. I don’t value light unless it deepens the color. I’ve tried flipping those images to monochrome while editing, but there’s not enough contrast left once the color is stripped away.
I’ve learned that I need to dial into a monochrome mode while I’m shooting if I want decent B&W images. Then my priority is light. A humble tree grabs my attention because it is lit in glory. I suppose B&W photography sharpens the fundamentals of the form: light and composition.
Shadows are deepest at the height of summer. It’s like the sun spills an inkwell in the shade.