Autumn leaves over the retention pond Apple iPhone 12 mini 2021
Autumn’s peak is past; few trees have leaves still. But when I made this photograph in early November, that was not yet the case. The trees in my suburban neighborhood were awash with red and orange, with a little yellow tucked in here and there. Whoever landscaped my neighborhood chose the trees carefully and well.
Over the years I’ve written this blog — 15 in February! — the coming of autumn has regularly given me a moment to reflect here. I will probably always favor summer and especially spring, and I will probably always dislike winter. But over these years I’ve gone from reviling autumn (for it meant winter was soon to come), to being able to enjoy fall’s colors while they last. I’m a fellow who will probably always struggle with staying in the present moment. But now when the trees turn, I no longer look past them. I actually anticipate their coming, watch the colors progress day by day, and make time to photograph them when they are at their most beautiful.
I loaded my last roll of Fujifilm Superia Reala 100 into my little Olympus Stylus at the end of summer, thinking I would document the gradual shift to autumn’s colors with it. Mother Nature had other plans, and the leaves stayed mostly green until about mid-November. Then they suddenly changed to yellow, red, and orange, and then just as suddenly they all fell.
Fortunately, I managed to capture peak color on my many walks around my neighborhood. It’s all gone now, of course; it’s a week and a half before winter begins.
I love Fujifilm’s ISO 100 consumer color films. It’s well saturated, typical of the genre. But it looks realistic, and it does a stunning job of rendering blue. I’ve shot Fujicolor Industrial 100, Superia 100, and now this Superia Reala 100 (expired since March, 2002) and they all look the same to me. I think they’re all either the same stock, or close to it. Too bad Fujifilm doesn’t make this film anymore.
I hope you enjoy this look back at the recent past.
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I first shared this story on 14 September 2008, and have shared it three other times since. I also shared it in my book, A Place to Start — click here to learn more.
During my 1970s kidhood when schools started after Labor Day as God intended, my mid-August birthday always meant summer was beginning to end. By then, the afternoon sun was at its hottest and most intense, the annual August dry spell began to toughen and dry all that had been green, and the street lights switched on earlier to send everyone inside for long quiet evenings with our families and our TVs.
The dozens of children all up and down Rabbit Hill, as our parents nicknamed our prolific neighborhood, always sensed these changes. We squeezed in as much play as we could before time ran out. One fellow down the street, thinking he was Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms, always organized and directed an end-of-summer show, an extravaganza that nobody would come and watch because everybody was in it. I would push to reach the new tree-climbing heights my brother and his best friend had mastered weeks before, heightening their schadenfreude when I would inevitably fall, have the wind knocked out of me, and make that loud but hilarious sucking noise that only sounds like death is imminent. Somebody would connive their mother into have a big running-through-the-sprinkler get-together at which gallons of Kool-Aid were served. Several kids sold lemonade or toys at a family garage sale to raise money for Jerry’s Kids. The chubby fellow who lived where the street curved sang his slightly naughty rhymes more often (“In 1944/My father went to the war/He stepped on the gas/And blew out his ass/In 1944!”). And then the Jerry Lewis telethon was on everybody’s TV. It was Labor Day weekend, and we all knew it was over.
On the day after school started, we could still play war in full army gear in the wide easement behind the houses, ride our bikes and Big Wheels up and down the hill making siren sounds as if we were a horde of ambulances and police cars (imagine 20 children doing this on your street!), play endless Red Rover in the freckled girl’s front yard, and watch the four-year-old girl next door eat sand with a spoon (oh, if her mom only knew). But we didn’t, hardly. We lost our enthusiasm. It was time to button ourselves back down and return to school-day routines.
Rabbit Hill conditioned me well; I still recognize and lament the signs of summer’s end. Kids have been back in school for weeks already. The grass hasn’t grown much lately because of the annual dry spell. My air conditioner has been off more days than it’s been on; it was too chilly the other morning to drive to work with the window down. I’ve crammed as much outside time as I can into these days to enjoy their freedom, but the end is in sight. Shorts will soon give way to long pants and short sleeves will give way to long sleeves. I’ll be in a windbreaker with a rake in my hands, collecting my trees’ deposits. The snow will fly and I’ll be hunkered down at home.
I still feel restricted, buttoned down, in fall and winter. Here’s hoping for a long, warm Indian summer first!
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Here in central Indiana, the trees changed colors slowly and dropped their leaves late. It made autumn seem to last a good long time. I know that autumn lasts the same amount of time every year regardless of the trees! But when the trees are bare, to me that’s when winter begins.
We had some good color this year, with strong reds and oranges abounding. I didn’t make a huge number of photos — some of them are on the roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 sitting here on my desk needing to be sent off for processing — but here are some that show our color this year.
I took the Yashica-12 and a roll of the original Fujifilm Velvia to Crown Hill Cemetery to photograph some autumn color.
A friend sent me this roll of Velvia a few years ago. It’s the original Velvia, code RVP, expired since August of 2006 but always stored frozen. I’d forgotten about it until the fridge in the garage died. It was where I stored my film.
The Velvia had been on my mind ever since. I hoped to bring it out at autumn’s peak, but wow has life been busy. I had a three-hour window one Saturday what turned out to be two weeks before peak. I loaded the Velvia into the Yashica-12 and headed for Crown Hill Cemetery.
Autumn is reaching its peak right about now in central Indiana. Is it just me, or did the leaves start to change later than normal? Isn’t peak normally past by now?
Photographing autumn color helps me appreciate a season I historically have not enjoyed because its arrival means winter is coming. I do not enjoy winter.
This year my time is short. I forced open a small window of time last Saturday to photograph some color, even though peak had not yet arrived.
The refrigerator in the garage died. I kept my film in there. Dealing with it made me realize that I’ve stockpiled a lot of film. Now I’m trying to shoot it all up, including a roll of Fuji Velvia, the original RVP emulsion, expired since 2006 but always kept frozen. I took it and my Yashica-12 out last Saturday, and I put the film in the mail for processing only on Wednesday. It could be a couple weeks before I, and therefore you, see the results.
But man have the colors gotten much nicer since Saturday. It makes me want to post autumn photos now! So I’ve spelunked my archives. These images will have to tide you, I mean me, over.