Images from the Film Archives — 1991
One of my favorite destinations in autumn was Harriman State Park, about a 90-minute drive from home, just over the NY/NJ border. At 52,000 acres, it’s the second largest park in NY, with over 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 lakes, scenic drives and great vistas. On this day, I was looking to photograph the barberry, a desiduous evergreen bush whose leaves turn crimson in fall before they drop off leaving thin branches with thorns. I had learned about these bushes many years earlier, before photography, when some friends and I would make an annual trip up to Harriman and spend the day there enjoying autumn, some hotdogs cooked over a fire, and a “few” beers.
There hadn’t been much success photographing wide views of the forest understory covered in a sea of red that afternoon, but I found an intimate spot among some lichen covered rocks where a fern and two barberry branches draped around some circular designed lichen. It was difficult getting the tripod into position, but after a few attempts, was able to center the circles and record it. Since this was taken on a late afternoon with clear skies, being in the shade, the color of the blue/green lichen was enhanced by the film. It was something I would eventually recognize and keep in the back of my mind when photographing in those conditions, and incorporate it into the image, or try to compensate for it. I finally did learn about warming filters to correct the blue cast when photographing in the shade, and eventually broke down and bought one, but rarely used it because, in most cases, I liked the blue tone. Now, at no cost, it’s a simple flick of a slider in Lightroom to color correct an image. Progress!!
One major failure from that day comes to mind though. At one point during the wanderings, I came across a spot where bright yellow leaves were cascading down from the trees like snowflakes. I thought I would be slick and record them as streaks using a 4-second exposure, while the forest itself would remain stationary and sharp. Well, when I got the film back about a week later, I was shocked that there were no streaks in any of the frames!! Just the forest without any cascading leaves!! Did I just imagine them? Another lesson learned: things that are moving through the frame during a very long exposure, may disappear!! If only I could have seen that on the back of the camera as we can now with digital cameras, I would have been able to immediately compensate for my ignorance, and learn a valuable lesson without missing the shot.