The deep angle of this brilliant sun as it illuminates the landscape bare of leaves can make the world we know look new and strange. This friendly streamside catalpa, normally covered with huge languid heart-shaped leaves reveals a somewhat human structure and a dense network of tiny branches looking vaguely gothic as the sunlight wraps itself around each twig. In the background is a footbridge and a limestone cliff wall. The colors in this photo are exactly as the camera recorded them, no manipulations at all.
The sun shines through a dense clump of many-flowered aster, whose dried flowers and leaves create a rich random pattern of warm winter umbers.
The mosses have been so thrilled with the unusually warm weather they are glowing, especially on an overcast day.
Do you suppose mosses were the original inspiration for shag carpeting?
Colors seem ever brighter against the umbers of autumn.
Just the right amount of mist just after sunrise is enough to enhance the reds in the oaks and maples surrounding Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. This is actually the view from one of the back windows of my house.
Stand out from the rest.
A hillside of oak trees is burnished by the late afternoon sun till it glows like copper, and the pale, nearly full moon rises above. To me the moon always looks translucent when it rises at this time of day, as if all the craters and darker areas on its surface are open, letting the sky shine through. The copper of the oaks and the aqua sky are such a beautiful combination.
The leaves are still colorful in the morning sun, settling inches deep on my picnic table.
We know autumn is stunning on the hills and along the trails; a walk in the autumn woods can wash my soul clean as new. But that exciting splash of color among square and stolid buildings, hiding in the shadows of narrow streets but touched but the afternoon sun—now that is a welcome sight, and just as likely to cleanse the soul of the press of people and work on city streets. These yellow trees, some hybrid magnolia, I believe, having seen them bloom in spring, are planted in a curving line in a sculpture court at the corner of Sixth and Penn Avenues in downtown Pittsburgh.
Here people actually get to enjoy sitting under lemon-colored trees, near a granite sculpture of an eye. Just before I took this photo, several people who had been sitting there got up and boarded a bus. Darn! They looked great under the trees.
I may like this one the best since the impact of the trees on the urban landscape is clear.
And here’s one more, not as dramatic in color, but both the trees and the sculpture help to break up the vertical lines and rectangles in Mellon Square Park, a little farther uptown.
A sketch I did from my window today of a brief break in the clouds and a bit of sunshine on the landscape. I left the buildings and bottom unfinished because it was in such darkness, and it’s still quite wet.
Another overcast rainy day with a blue cast to the light, reflected on the wet leaves and filtering through the mist. The shapes and colors blend so it almost looks like an abstract pattern.
Just a little light illuminates the drops waiting to fall from sodden branches.
Rain is falling on those autumn leaves. I hope a few are left when the storm is over.
I often need a image for design that is less representational than a photos, and autumn is often one of the subjects in need. Much as I’d love to do a painting I’d rarely be paid for the amount of work that goes into one. I’ve been photographing the leaves in our conjoined back yards and they are lovely but what I’m photographing is much the same as what I photographed last year. So for the sake of experimentation I thought I’d play around with a few images, and this one turned out very much like something I’d use. Photshop filters don’t always work out the way I want, but with a little preparation in color saturation and contrast, the cutout filter worked beautifully.
Enjoying the outdoors just for the sake of it, or gardening, or creating, I find myself watching the clouds. Yesterday, a storm rolled in at sunset, the temperature has dropped from a balmy Indian Summer with sun to chilled and wet, and I watched heavy gray clouds march across the blue skies.
Roiling clouds blown by winds
Before a summer thunderstorm,
Huge constructions in purple and blue
And lurid green tinged with coral.
The delicate lace of a fair summer day,
Puffs and wisps in white and cream
Shaded with lilac and blue
And edged in yellow.
Hazy wisps in autumn
Moving slowly from one horizon to the next,
Never amounting to much.
The heavy purple rainclouds of a late spring afternoon
Looming on the horizon
Shadowing the early wan sun
And promising a rainy night.
The approach of the first storm of winter
As flat gray clouds form in the west,
In their shadow bringing the first reminder
Of the eternal cold of year’s end.
“Autumn”, above, is one of a commissioned series of four paintings created to fit a frame a customer’s father had made by hand. Each window was 12″ x 24″ with no room for a mat, so my pastels would fit exactly into each space. Seeing where she lived and other art she had inspired the “Four Seasons” with images, not from the view from her windows but familiar from the region. This is a small creek running through the middle of an abandoned hay field, the mix of deciduous trees each in its own shade and reflected in the still water. The water reflects the sky directly above, still blue, while storm clouds rise from the horizon.
Autumn in the Watershed
I featured this on the Autumnal Equinox, but it’s just as fitting today.
Sloping hills blaze with autumn color at a rocky, rippled bend in Chartiers Creek, yet on the horizon deep gray-purple clouds hover; although the day was sunny I remember it being distinctly chilly with a sharpness to the breeze, especially on the water in a canoe, and winter is literally on the horizon.
For two reasons the scene was reminiscent and inspiring: first, that I rounded the bend to see this natural splendor in all its detail, brilliant color, fluttering leaves, rippling water, changing clouds, happening all on its own with no help from me or any other human (read the poem, below) ; and, second, it was an example of that “change of season” with the gray-purple clouds of winter arriving on the horizon, two seasons blending into one another. I needed to share this image, and it was so moving that the inspiration also became a poem, and the title for my third annual poetry reading and art show at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, Change of Season.
You can find a full-size giclee plus various sizes of digital prints, framed and unframed in my Etsy shop.
A Poem Inspired by the Scene
I actually wrote a poem about the scene before I did the painting, so inspiring was that particular moment.
I paddled the canoe around the bend,
And was faced with the effortless beauty of the panorama,
The trees in all their colors, the sky with changing clouds,
The water moving and reflecting simultaneously,
All perfectly arranged,
I realized that my creations are but raindrops in a puddle,
Wisps of cloud that change and dissipate
My solitary accomplishments borne of great effort
Would never equal this one solitary scene
Or the one I would have seen the day before or the day after
Evolved on its own, no one to frame it and display it and promote it
As it quietly exists through the day.
We humans sometimes get to think everything happens because of us
But these trees and grasses and hills arrange themselves
And create great beauty effortlessly
Simply in the process of their everyday existence.
So I did a painting that can never match the original
So that I may remember my place.
Read the rest of the poetry from my annual poetry reading and art show at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, in 2009 entitled Change of Season.
About Art of the Watershed and the Collected Poems
A series of seasonal images of the Lower Chartiers Watershed
“I have travelled a good deal in Concord,” said Henry David Thoreau in Walden, his paradox of exploring a small town and its surroundings teaching him as much about human life and the interactions of nature as if he had traveled rare and exotic places about the globe.
I’d love to paint faraway exotic places, but in the interests of time I stay close to home for my hiking, bicycling, canoeing, walking and painting excursions, that being the valley where the Lower Chartiers Creek flows.
I’ve seen some exquisite sights on my adventures, and committed them to various media. The most moving are the ones I’ve chosen to paint large and in detail so that I might convey at least a portion of the grandeur that moved me beyond awe to action, sharing the places right around us though most people would never see them. Thus was born the series offering an image indicative of the watershed in each season.
Visit my website to see the full set of paintings included in the “Art of the Watershed” series.
And visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing.
Autumn in the Valley availability
You can find a full-size giclee plus various sizes of digital prints, framed and unframed in my Etsy shop.
One of my neighborhood friends sits on his neighbor’s steps to do his homework. What else can you do on a beautiful autumn afternoon after school? You can’t go in yet, but the homework needs to be done. He had been in the sun, but it moved on and illuminates the hedges.
Simply so beautiful, just the right moment as the sun shone directly down the street, illuminating the layers of birch, burning bush, azalea and forsythia leaves, the pavement of the street in shadow providing the perfect slate blue background, the birch twigs a silhouette. I’m not sure what reflected onto the sensor to create the two circles on the left, one with a branch silhouetted into it but that’s beautiful too.
This was intended to be a photo of grape leaves wonderfully rich in autumnal golds and olives, washed in morning sun with just a few pendant raindrops like gems hanging on the tips of the leaves, and it was to be entitled, “Last Night’s Raindrops”.
However, I left my camera on totally inappropriate settings, intended for low-light photography and filtering out incandescent light.
But this is lovely in its own right, ghostly, mysterious, the leaves appearing to be mirror images as odd angles to each other, one in the light, one in the dark.
There are definitely mistakes, but this is not one of them.
Water droplets sit on colored leaves. It was indeed very rainy, but the colors in this photo are the classic autumn harvest colors as well.
I hang out near Chartiers Creek, a meandering but navigable waterway that runs 52 miles along its full course, 26 miles in the part I know best, the Lower Chartiers. In some areas where humanity has had very little obvious impact I can always feel the presence of the generations before me who wandered to its banks on a lovely autumn afternoon, or a summer morning, or a winter dusk after a heavy snowfall, or to see the thundering freshet of the spring thaw.
This photo really is right-side up—take a look at the object on the left, which is a railroad bridge pier in actual image and in reflection, and the trees are on the hillside opposite me. The lighting creates the effect with the water, unusually still over a deep pool turning it into a perfect mirror, in shadow while the hillside catches the glow of the late afternoon sun full on its face. I’ve seen people pick this up at my display and turn it, and turn it, and turn it again. It’s a fun one to share.
Apparently it was a rainy autumn in 2009!
Normally I love gray, rainy days because they are so good for concentration.
This time of the year, however, my house is very dark with very little natural direct sunshine, even on the sunniest days; my house is on the north side of a steep hill, most of my windows are on the west and north, and the sun’s angle has finally fallen down below the tree tops around me most days because my neighbor’s trees have grown so tall. The trees are still full of green leaves, and though they are thinning they block the sunlight just for these few weeks in October and I won’t see any direct sunlight in my house until they fall.
Therefore, when we have not only five cloudy days, but five dark, rainy, blustery days in a row when my house is already dark, I’m looking for reasons to get out of here, very unusual, for me and in the least turning on all the lights in the middle of the day.
Under the blanket of autumn rain and mist, I can see the hillsides blazing with color. The cold front will pass soon, and I’m hoping that enough leaves will be left to enjoy at least one afternoon bike ride among the colors. I’m featuring a few photos from the past few years, taken around this time of October when snow was not in the forecast.
The stage is ready and it’s just a few moments before the musicians, who had just been rehearsing and goofing off about 30 minutes earlier, would arrive on stage in their dress black for the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall’s 2009 benefit performance of Daphne Alderson singing “All Judy, All Heart”. Here the concert grand is ready, with a colorful cluster of mums and sunflowers.
I love photographing performances and still stage scenes like this are rare to get. While the overall tones are autumnal with orange and yellow and bronze bathed in the yellow of the dimmed lights, yet the piano, the drums, microphone, even the floor and the post on the left are touched by a gentle wash of the red and blue stage lights ready for the performance, above.
It’s also in my exhibit “Of Harps and Fig Leaves” featuring images of this place, where it’s called “Autumn Expectations”.