Chasing “Les Feuilles Mortes” with a Leica M10
The well known song “ The Autumn Leaves” was originally called "Les Feuilles Mortes” which literally means “The Dead Leaves” The original title in French is probably the more appropriate one for photographers as catching the leaves at the peak of their autumn glory is often a difficult task. Here in Ireland, you can have magnificent leaves one day and the following day a big wind will come and you just have the bare trees to photograph.
Even in New England, the home of the “Fall Foliage” (strange how a trip across the Atlantic changes the English language and terminology) you have to be at the right spot at the right time as the foliage changes colour in a North to South movement. I discovered this for myself when I was there in 2012. Enthusiastic Fall Foliage chasers in the US use online maps and forecasts to chase the peak and I found that on our trip we saw only the autumn foliage in spots.
I have taken many photographs of the autumn leaves over the years, but for this article I have concentrated on photographs taken about two weeks ago. I am lucky to have several magnificent parks near to where I live and, if we get a sunny day in Autumn I can jump in my car and be taking photos of the leaves within ten minutes or so.
This year we had some nice sunshine one Friday about two weeks ago and, without giving the matter much thought, I jumped into my car with my Leica M10 — and the 35mm Summicron lens that usually acts as its body cap — and headed to Marlay Park, which is a few miles from home. The park has had an interesting history , but today it is a public area which, as well as acting as an amenity for local residents, is also the start point on the 131 kilometre Wicklow Way.
I am very comfortable when taking landscape and nature photographs with a 35mm lens and so I just kept it on the camera for the whole afternoon. Trees can be a difficult subject to photograph and I like to use vertical format (portrait mode) as much as possible, as that is how I envisage trees.
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The little fountain above is an interloper from the garden beside the main house in the estate and I put it in here to break up the sequence of leaves a bit.
The estate also has small lakes and ponds. For this one I also used a graduated red filter to enhance the autumn effect in the photo on the right below.
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I use Photoshop for processing, together with Nik Filters and some occasional forays into Photoshop. When I processed the photo on the left, I thought it lacked a certain something and so I added in some ‘extra red’. There are rumours circulating that the new Apple High Sierra version of OS is killing Nik Filters. I have noticed recently that the functionality of Nik Filters is decreasing as Apple has introduced new OS upgrades. That is the way the world is today, I suppose. DxO has now acquired the Nik software suite and has promised to continue development, so enough of that for now. What I would like to know, though, is which version of the photo above do readers prefer? You need to click on them to see them uncrossed and full size.
As an added point, these photos from the M10 have received my full post processing work flow. Some readers were bemused and confused recently when I limited my work flow in a recent article, comparing the output from the M10 with that from a 91 year old film Leica. I hope that I managed to explain my approach in the responses that I gave.
Marlay Park, as a former country estate, also includes trees in open landscape.
One feature of the estate is the number of little bridges and waterfalls that are dotted throughout the wooded areas
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For my final image, here are all of the elements, a bridge, a waterfall, dappled sunlight and the autumn leaves all together.
The Leica M10 and 35mm performed impeccably, as they should. To end with a little story, as I was going around the park I met a lady, who was taking photos of the autumn leaves with a little iPad type device. When she saw my camera, she said that she did have a camera at one time, but ‘now I use this’, pointing to her iPad. She added that her daughter, who was living abroad, was coming home soon, but the leaves would probably be all gone by the time her daughter would return. I said that I was doing more or less the same thing myself, as the leaves would not hang around waiting for us to photograph them. You really do have to move quickly to capture ”les feuilles mortes”.
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