Inside this issue
Time for appreciation of life
I am a full-time amateur photographer, having made my first photographs at age 13 and continuing now some 50 years on. I enjoy many genres, but mostly I enjoy the deliberate and contemplative aspects of landscape photography. I do not view myself as an artist, but rather I try to faithfully and aesthetically record the artistry, beauty and tragedy found in the world.
Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Every autumn, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, deciduous trees undergo a radical transformation, climaxing in an explosion of colour before shedding their leaves and becoming dormant during winter, preparing to start the cycle all over again in Spring. It is a miracle of nature brought about by seasonal changes in the diurnal light cycle, temperature and prior rainfall that halt production of green chlorophyll and allow yellows, reds, oranges and purples to show through.
We all know this story, which for all its splendour also is so predictable and commonplace that it is easy to miss as we go about our daily lives.
One morning, in the Autumn of 1994, I took a shortcut across a field in Connecticut, hurrying to get to my destination, when I looked down to ascertain why my shoes were soaked through to the socks. The answer halted me. The ground was covered with richly coloured, dew soaked leaves made even more saturated by the soft, lightbox effect of cirrus clouds high overhead. Luckily, I had my camera with me loaded with Velvia. The beauty caused me to pause long enough to marvel at nature and to record that feeling on film.
That’s what photography is to me, an effort to record a feeling – really, an emotion – that I can share and recall. I often read or hear photographers talk about the importance of having something to say through our work, but I’ve rarely felt that I had something to say. I don’t even really know what that means. It’s the landscape that is speaking to me. On the rare occasion that I do reportage, I have a story to tell, but mostly I am not trying to say anything. Usually, I am trying to listen.
Ever since that day in the field in New England, autumn has been a favourite time for photography because autumn is more than a visually spectacular colour change. Autumn is Mother Nature singing, with all her heart and soul, her song that we can hear if we remember to notice. But how can we not notice such a loud phenomenon?
Whereas the solstices are subtle and slip by unnoticed, the autumnal equinox is a time of great upheaval, a beautiful death throe before the cold stillness of winter. The shedding of leaves is a great entropic event that deposits countless tons of biomass back onto the ground, to be recycled by worms, insects and bacteria into basic nutrients that will, once again, climb the cambium layer of the very tree from which they fell to grow new leaves.
In nature, spring is a time of birth and childhood, of newness and learning, of adolescence and maturation. Summer is the important and necessary time of production, like the prime of our adulthood. Make hay while the sun shines. Autumn is a time of fulfilment and harvest when nature rejoices her accomplishments by showing off all her resplendent colours as she prepares for winter.
That’s me. I am at the autumnal equinox of my life. Strong and virile for the past 64 years I now find myself changing, even failing in certain ways. I’ve always loved the colours of autumn but now I identify with them. I am them. Autumn is a whole new level of maturation. Autumn is a time for appreciation of life, for reflection on accomplishments as well as failures, a time to rejoice in the bounty, and a time for peaceful resignation and preparation before the inevitable.
The challenge is to recognise it and enjoy it to the fullest. Just as we miss the autumn colours if we don’t look up in our busy lives, we can miss the autumn of our lives if we don’t make an effort to fully live it, to be fully in it. It is a time to reflect, but it also is a time to live in the moment, to make the most of each day, to appreciate the beauty around us in nature and in our friends and family. A time to get outside with our cameras and listen. Because unlike nature, we have seen our last spring.