It was nearing the end of a long week, and I found myself alone in my favorite woods near the Great Meadow and Sieur de Monts. My creative juices were running low as I wandered through the woods with an 85mm lens on my Canon 5D Mark 2 camera.
I always spend a week in Acadia in October every year. The first day or two are exciting, full of exploring the island, finding out where the best color is, getting up early, staying up late, eating very little and generally having a great time. Then I start to explore areas where I haven't been before. Sometimes I find great new things to photograph, other times it's more of an exploratory trip to check off my list.
By the end of the week, I'm still enjoying myself, but I'm drained– physically and often emotionally. It's hard to keep up that intense search for good photography, always searching for the next image, or planning where to go next, not to mention always watching the weather and keeping an eye on the skies. Occasionally, I'll leave my camera bag in the car and set off on foot down a trail, or up a mountain, not planning on taking any pictures at all (but bringing a long a camera and one lens... just in case).
So on this occasion, I found myself in the woods, walking around, leaves crunching under my boots, half searching for things to photograph, half just enjoying the solitude and beauty of the woods. I took a few photos, but nothing that I thought would be all that good; I'd probably delete most, if not all, when I got back home.
So eventually– a month later– I had some time to go through the images from my trip, and I came to this one. I have to say here that all my pictures are shot in color, even those I plan on converting to black and white later on. The color information is stored in the digital files. With this particular image, the lighting was nothing special, though I liked the way the leaves seem to glow against the backdrop of the woods. But in color, it still seemed dull and uninspiring. I was about to delete it along with dozens of others I was getting rid of that day. But I had a few minutes so I decided to convert it to black and white and start to adjust the tones of the trees and leaves. I lightened the yellow leaves to stand out against the background. And because I had taken the picture with a very wide aperture (f/2 in this case) with a telephoto lens, everything with the exception of just a few crisp leaves was soft. I added some vignetting to the photo to draw the viewer into the leaves and added a sepia tint. Suddenly the dull color image became a beautiful black and white piece of art.
Since I made this image in 2012, it has featured in my ebook (The Photographer's Guide to Acadia) and my coffee table book (Under October Skies) and several people have bought prints of this image. Recently, it was the first print I sold from my new relationship with Artemis Gallery. I know at least a couple people who say it's their favorite images of all my pictures.
I have no idea when I take a picture if anyone will actually ever see the finished print; I have thousands of images that no one has ever seen. But this one has risen to the top and been appreciated by many people. It's a satisfying feeling.