Editor’s note: This week, we’re doing something a little different. We asked Loop contributing photographer Jamie Maldonado to capture the fleeting explosion of fall colors in Tyler, and describe how he sees the changes through his lens. Here’s Jamie’s photoessay.
As a bit of a weekend challenge, I recently spent a few hours crisscrossing the Tyler terrain trying to photograph the emergence of fall foliage. The Dallas Morning News reported that all of the rain we’ve been getting has inspired an earlier-than-usual colorful autumnal display of orange and gold leaves. I got out my gear, hopped in the car, and set off the capture one of the true pleasures of the season.
I chose to photograph closer to sunset, as the late-evening and early-morning sun not only are much warmer in color—midday light tends to make everything a terribly neutral blue—but also comes in at a raking angle that creates interesting shadows and less contrast. The golden light drew out the fall colors, and the lower sun helped me do things like backlighting these trees, topping it off with a “sunstar” effect created by using a small aperture that tightly focuses the light instead of the fuzzy circle that wider apertures tend to create.
I took several photographs around Rose Rudman park, which was full of resilient green, but whose leaf-covered grounds betrayed the arrival of fall. Among the green, some of the early signs of fall stood out especially well, like messengers promising that more pleasant days and comfortable clothing were just on the horizon.
I noticed how much yellow popped up in the rest of the landscape as I searched for turning leaves. A utility pole surrounded by parking stripes caught my eye. I appreciated small details such as a yellow car in someone’s yard, visible from the street near downtown. The connotations of color are interesting. We long for golden, crunchy, leaves, but also associate yellow with caution and danger. Whatever the case, yellow makes us notice.
I’m typically a portrait photographer, but I do enjoy dabbling in landscape and still-life work. I’m a sucker for 1970s color photography, from the decade that working in color finally gained acceptance within the wider art world. William Eggleston is generally agreed upon as the breakthrough artist, though I’ve been inspired by the works of many other important color photographers, such as Elliot Porter. The photographs made by Eggleston, who still makes photographs and plays jazz music as he nears his 80s, first appear to be snapshots—meaningless and shambolic in composition, what some would consider to be created with no technical or artistic merit in mind. But a closer look reveals a strong sense of design and color awareness. A sense of humor often emerges.
I don’t bring Eggleston up to say that I compare in any way to the eccentric master, but to share a perspective from which I work. My portrait photography does not often draw immediate reference to this work, but it emerges every time I photograph something other than people.
My day of photographing fall color in Tyler made me remember a four-way intersection near my childhood home. A old-style grocery store sat at one corner, and was generally abandoned. Across the street from it, where a traffic overpass now cuts through nearby, was a lush and wild thicket. During fall, it would become a wonderland of orange and gold. No one in particular took care of the land, and the leaves covered the ground even while the trees were still rich in color. All things change, and many things fade. It’s good to preserve a bit of it when we can.
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