Red Leaves on Tall Fall Aspen

Red Leaves on Tall Fall Aspen

full print size of 35.6x28.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2004   view detailed crop

geranium Inyo National Forest, Inyo County
late morning Saturday October 2, 2004, slide 04-V-4
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Rodenstock, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature left bottom

The previous fall, I had explored this small grove of red leaved aspen and had been impressed by its aesthetic potential though most leaves had already fallen off by that time. This day a friend and I returned on our fourth stop among the many aspen groves within the Bishop Creek drainage. I was pleased to see most leaves were still intact and colors were intense. Before exposing any sheets we wandered about this grove of tall trees considering possible frames. Choosing an exact position to make an image is critical as slight movements up down right left can make considerable changes to the aesthetic as trees, branches, and leaves rotate in and out of the perspective of near trunks and branches. Trees of this grove were uncommon in that leaves tended to be at the top of the canopy leaving a wonderful openness below giving visibility to other trunks and leaves of trees beyond.

I liked the bowing of two trunks in the center of this frame as well as an intensely red leaved small tree at right. Another challenge here was the forest floor had quite a bit of down branches and trunks with brushy berry bushes waste high everywhere. Thus I needed to raise my tripod up as high as possible in order to eliminate those berry bushes from being too close to my lower frame edge where depth of field limitations would cause lack of sharp focus. Accordingly I managed to support the tall Gitzo legs atop some small diameter down trunks which I could also stand on. Trees were too tall to include near tops while maintaining trunk verticality but that was not an issue as I liked the blue space at two-thirds frame height that provided shape to full trees beyond the near trunks. The large tree at left was in considerable shade thus I waited an hour until sun briefly managed to partially illuminate up and down the lower trunk.

A partly cloudy sky behind my position was also blocking the sun much of the time which we had to wait awhile to clear. Note the whitish clouds behind leaves mid frame.

Quaking aspen, populus tremuloides, are a widespread tree species throughout cooler areas of North America. In the Eastern Sierra aspen groves tend to be between 6,500 and 10,500 feet. Larger trees as in this grove are usually found where water is seeping near the surface. Because other evergreen trees easily dominate these trees, aspen often colonize denuded avalanche slopes free from competitors. Aspen tend to spread via root sprouting of runners. Such trees are virtual genetic clones. Leaves of adjacent clones in fall tend to all change about the same time. Trunks are covered by an aesthetic smooth white bark with light yellow-green blotches. The soft smooth white bark is coated with white powder that readily transfers to one's clothing. Encircling trunks are spaced slightly raised ribs. Where old branches have departed black knots show. In places where people frequent one will of course see large trunks decorated with old initial carvings in the soft wood. By last weeks of October leaves of aspen groves will have fallen to the forest floor, quickly browned, and begin another layer of decaying leaf matter which creates a unique dark soil. After winter snows melt in May new bright yellow green leaves begin appearing once again decorating branchlets above the naked white trunks.

The forest floor at bottom is a tangle of berry bushes growing up through decaying fallen aspen trunks. Note some small spots of red berries including those just left of the left bowed tree at center. Fall food for many birds and small mammals.

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   David Senesac

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