Autumn Leaves (Or: How I did that)Posted: October 12, 2012
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!