Autumn Leaves (Or: How I did that)

Floating on the creek. (f 5.0, 1/125s, ISO: 64) In this one, the creek is shallow so you can see the shadow on the bottom of the creek. It’s dark in the woods, but a little sunlight came along to help me out. The creek was running fast after the rain so I had to be quick to capture this one. Used an Orton Effect to smooth out the noise and water.

Chloe recently asked about how I get my leaf on water images to come out as they do.  (She was more succinct, asking “How did you do that?”)  I’m including the EXIF data with the photos in hopes that will help explain things.

Leaf on pond. (f5.0, 1/2000s, ISO: 64) Orton Effect used to smooth out noise and water. It also darkens the water.

Keep in mind that I’m using a point and shoot camera (Kodak Easyshare Z981) with some manual capabilities.  I rarely use the auto modes anymore, and didn’t for the leaf photos.  That’s because auto won’t do what it is I like to do with leaf on water shots:  make the water dark while the leaf pops.  (Someday, when I win the lottery, I’ll buy a better camera, unless, of course, Canon wants to give me that camera — the EOS Rebel T2i — I’ve been desiring, just so I can test it for them.  Let’s talk, Canon.)

Two leaves on the pond. (f5.0, 1/2000s, ISO: 64)

Cloudy days are good for this, especially if you want the water to be very dark.  I try to do it in camera because I don’t have good enough Photoshop skills yet to change the background with post-processing.  Reflections of clouds on the water (as in the photo just above) are very nice, too.

The sun appeared. (f4.5, 1/640s, ISO: 64)

However, sun doesn’t hurt either.  The sun came out while I was taking photos of leaves on the pond (Wednesday), and it makes those little starbursts if you capture it just right.

A collection. ( f4.5, 1/2000s, ISO: 64) No effects used on this one. Just adjusted the contrast a bit, and sharpened it a little, resized it for the internets, and it was good to go.

These are all handheld, but a tripod isn’t a bad idea.  I’m just too lazy to drag it out there with me.  I like windy days for some of these shots, too, because it gives the water some texture and helps change the position of the leaves.

The wind started to gust, creating ripple patterns in the water and blowing dust around so that it looks like tiny falling stars. No effects used on this one either.

The Orton Effect (it’s included in Picasa if you have it, and the online editor PicMonkey; Pixlr, also online, has several versions under “Effect” and “Soft”; and it’s easily done in a few steps in Photoshop) is a good way for me to smooth out the noise and water, as well as darken it.  However, the Orton Effect will also make things blurry so you have to sharpen up the leaf again after using it.  The easiest way is to just sharpen the whole thing in whatever manner you use to sharpen your photos.

Seasick leaf. The wind had this one bobbing up and down quite a bit. The waves make cool patterns on the water. I can’t use the Orton Effect on shots like this because it washes/smooths out the wave patterns.

I’m leaving off the EXIF data now because, frankly, it doesn’t change much if at all.  I adjust for light and/or shadow, making it as dark as I can and still see the leaf.  Usually the leaf takes on a kind of glow.

Wavy swirls.

Every year I hope to capture a nice, big red maple leaf perfectly positioned on the pond.   It hasn’t happened yet.  I could, I suppose, grab a handful of big, red maple leaves and throw them on the pond, but I like the idea of found art.  Someday the perfect red maple leaf will appear.

Pearls of sunlight. Orton effect used.

It is very cool when the wind starts blowing the leaves that just landed on the pond.  The movement of the leaf creates a wake behind it.  I didn’t capture any like that on Wednesday, but there’s an example of one on an old post of mine (The leaf regatta).  Those were shot in auto mode (probably the Sports mode) because I hadn’t yet learned to use the manual options.

This one has had nothing done to it other than some resizing for the internet, and small tweaks in contrast and sharpness. The water has a lot of camera noise. I’m hoping I can fix it somehow because I love these floating leaf shots where the leaf is just under the water, only its tips still above the surface.

Well, I couldn’t reduce the noise as much as I wanted so I went the opposite direction and added texture.

Let’s not forget leaf glare.  Even on cloudy days, there is some leaf glare (I exploit it a bit on some of my tree shots so it looks like twinkling lights in the trees).  I’ve read that a polarizing filter will take care of leaf glare.  I don’t have one, and can’t use one on my camera so I adjust the white balance to “open shade.”  Your camera probably calls it “cloudy” or something along those lines.

Tungsten is pretty cool, too.  It sometimes creates a more floaty, ephemeral looking image, as if it was shot in moonlight.  I posted one yesterday, although that one is more cold (chilly) than floaty and ephemeral, even with the sunlight.

A collage of leaves and water. Done in Picasa.

That’s it for this lesson in How I Did That.  I hope it wasn’t too confusing, or too boring for those who couldn’t care less how images are created.  To be honest, most of what I do is trial and error.  That’s the beauty of digital.  I can shoot and shoot and shoot until I get what I like.  A daily practice has made it easier (less error), but I like to experiment at least once while I’m out with my camera.  You don’t often see my experiments, but every now and then, there’s one worth posting.

I am fresh out of leaf on water shots, so here’s a Great Blue Heron hanging out by the cattails. He just finished eating a very large frog. I have shots of that, with the frog’s legs sticking out of the heron’s beak, but I don’t think you want to see that. Enjoy this one instead.

Thanks for coming by.  This is a scheduled post.  I should be out hiking or biking when this post goes out.  I’m off on my annual leaf peeping excursion, with a pretty ambitious schedule/plan for hiking and biking.  I’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday (unless I find time, energy, and an internet connection to post).  Until then, wishing you a joyful weekend!

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26 Comments on “Autumn Leaves (Or: How I did that)”

  1. artsifrtsy says:

    You do such great work with a P&S – well, you do such great work:) It’s not the camera:)

  2. Phil Lanoue says:

    Those are outstanding!! A P&S in your hands is a thing of beauty!
    So…froggy got eaten huh?

    • Robin says:

      Oh yes, Phil. Frog’s legs (and everything else) are a popular dish with the herons here at the pond. It’s a jungle out there. lol!

      Thanks. 🙂

  3. mobius faith says:

    Nice collection of leaves. You definitely know your camera better than I know mine. 🙂

  4. Val says:

    my travel zoom lumix has auto and manual settings but so far I’ve only learnt to use the Aperture thingy (see, I don’t even know what the rest of it is called!) and can never remember the… um… exposure thingies either! But one day maybe I’ll understand then I’ll come back and learn how you do these brilliant photos! 🙂

    • Robin says:

      lol, Val!! I know just what you mean because, honestly, I can’t tell which is which either. I spend a lot of time puzzling over the shutter and aperture stuff, and then finally decided I didn’t really need to understand it as much as I need to remember which settings work best for what I want to achieve.

      Thank you. 🙂

      • Val says:

        “then finally decided I didn’t really need to understand it as much as I need to remember which settings work best for what I want to achieve.” Now that, Robin, is very sensible! If my memory would work, I’d use that logic to my own ‘me and camera’ thingy! 🙂

  5. Chloe says:

    you’re just so amazing ! 🙂

  6. You got some really nice shots for your “leaf study.” And you do such a heckuva job with that P&S!!

  7. Oh, you’re good…
    I throw leaves in the water, and click 😉

  8. bearyweather says:

    Marvelous … exciting … inspiring. I wish we still had some colorful leaves around for me to go out and try this. I have been away from blogging for a bit … I am so glad that I came back today and saw your beautiful pictures. I love them. They are some of your best ever!

  9. Great info, Robin. I know Sara subscribes to your blog but I need to make sure she’s seen this one! Hope your weekend is going well, my friend.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  10. Gorgeous float! Thanks for the tips (and have fun outside!)

  11. Have I ever said I love your leaf shots? :). Maybe while you’re talking to Canon you can get Nikon’s number and get them to lend me a D4 to try it out? That thing does anything short of driving you around and cooking your meals :p
    I got the Nik plugins for Photoshop, I think you’d like them, especially Color Efex Pro. It’s a bunch of digital filters you can use just by clicking on them, and they look lovely.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, Belen. 🙂

      I have to admit I wouldn’t turn down a Nikon, either. The Canon got some better reviews, but not by much, so I’d be willing to go either way. Color Efex Pro sounds like fun. Perhaps Nikon IS the better way to go.

  12. […] Last Fall and Winter Robin was at her former home she calls Breezy Acres.  For those of you who would like look at Robin’s stunning pictures from there, her other blog from when she lived on Breezy Acres is Life In the Bogs. […]


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