Alternative autumn – still avoiding cliches

My last post was about the problems of photographing cliches, and it’s a problem that’s forever popping up when you have to photograph the seasons.  Part of my course assessment submission is to put together a seasonal landscape portfolio of 12 images, 3 for each season.  I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the course thinking about how to do this in a non-obvious way and not coming up with any answers.  In the end, letting go of the attempt, and allowing things to unfold as they would revealed the answer.  As it turned out, things changed over time without any real effort on my part, and in many ways I’m glad it’s taken me so long to complete this course (three years! – some people do whole degrees in that time).   I think my photography has moved on quite significantly during these years and I feel I’ve now found something of a ‘voice’ of my own.  It’s so easy to think that we continue on our way, unchanging and looking back at our own work over a period of time can be quite illuminating.

Take autumn, for instance. I started out doing the obvious shots – pretty autumnal coloured trees and leaves, shot in a traditional way.  The images below are typical – I do like them because they’re pretty, they’re nice to look at, and I’m happy to have taken them, but there’s very little of me in them.  I think anyone could have taken these, and although pleasing to the eye, there isn’t a great deal of depth.  This ‘depth’ thing is problematic – it’s one of those things that you know when you see it, but you can’t explain what it is (like Justice Potter Stewart’s famous words on recognising obscenity).  The last of these three images probably does have some depth and is the one I’m most satisfied with here.

Autumn tree


Autumn light

I very quickly tired of taking these kinds of shots, just as I would tire of looking at them after a short time.  Boredom led me to experiment a bit more.   The following image was taken on a little compact camera while I was sitting in my car in the pouring rain in a Sainsbury’s carpark.  It’s not the obvious place to go to shoot autumn, and when I first took this shot I didn’t even bother processing it as I thought it was no good.  Looking at it now, though, it seems to me that it sums up a typical English autumn rather well – the colours of the leaves indicate the season, the grey light gives it a melancholy feel, and the out-of-focus raindrops on the windscreen add an unexpected abstract element.  I feel this shot has a freshness about it that the others don’t.  It also makes me realise how our tastes and perceptions evolve, and that something we dismiss to begin with looks different to us as we gain in experience.  (I’m just glad I didn’t delete it – I almost did)

Autumn trees at Sainsbury's

It was in the same carpark on the same day that I began to shoot fallen leaves in puddles and, of course, this eventually turned into my ‘Fallen’ series.  The shot I took that day was this one, which isn’t particularly good but has the germ of the idea in it that led to my later project – I think it’s worth showing for that reason.  I was bored and playing around at this point.

Leaves and yellow lines

As time went on, the Fallen images changed from being something I did for want of anything better to do, and became a bit more sophisticated and deliberate.  The following two are typical examples.

Fallen leaves 2

Fallen leaves 1

As I’ve allowed the Fallen series to evolve, more and more of my photography has involved aiming my lens at the ground, as in the images above and below. Like many people I have a fascination with reflections too, and these have become part of quite a few of my latest autumnal images.

I’m not sure what my obsession with the ground is about – I guess that not so many people look down at what’s underneath them, just as few people look upwards either.  In one rather straightforward sense, it’s an attempt to show people what they’re missing but I also have the quote ‘as above, so below’ whirling around in my head – leaves on the ground reflect the presence of the trees above and everything that lies beneath us has come from above us.  I’ve been impressed, too, by a book I read recently called ‘The Holographic Universe‘ which argues that the smallest part of anything in the world contains the whole, and I have some idea of taking that notion into my photography.  This is all very vague as yet, and hopefully will become a bit clearer to me as I go on.  I have a sense of being led in a particular direction, and the feeling  that I should simply trust this and do what comes naturally.  There’s a very clear change in my images over the period of the course and they seem distinctively ‘mine’ now.  I think someone might look at these and know it was me who took them, and that’s a very satisfying thing.

If you were to look at your own images through time, what changes would you see?

Autumn leaves in gutter

Evening warmth

Autumn sky reflected

Autumn puddle

Autumn puddle 2

Autumn reflected