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Autumn fruits

November 24, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Autumn fruits

November 24, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Horse Chestnut leaves & fruits

The wet Summer of 2012 was very unfavourable to tree reproduction, and to any artist looking to find good examples of tree fruit!

Artist Sarah Simblet has travelled far and wide to find good examples of arils, berries, cones, drupes and fruits this Autumn for The New Sylva. Talking about her work Sarah said:

“In all of the botanical plates I am seeking to give the reader the experience of having walked up to a tree to grasp a branch and pull it close to them. The drawing then shows the reader what to see.”

Horse Chestnut leaves & fruits

Horse Chestnut leaves & fruits. A drawing by Sarah Simblet for The New Sylva

This horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum was growing near to Sarah’s studio just North of Oxford. This year there are not many trees of the species with healthy leaves, especially without severe damage from the leaf miner. This one also had fully-formed fruits on its lower branches, which were just in reach. It was essential that the fruits were mature for the drawing, but at this stage are attached delicately to their stalks and fall off easily, so the sample needed careful handling.

Quince fruit. A drawing by Sarah Simblet for The New Sylva.

Quince fruit. A drawing by Sarah Simblet for The New Sylva

As any gardener will know apples and pears have had a poor cropping year, while the less common and heavily scented quince Cydonia oblonga has fared similarly. For this drawing of a quince fruit Sarah used the white of the paper to model the form of the fruit and to suggest light reflecting off its skin.

Oxford Botanic Garden

Visit the website of Oxford Botanic Garden

This quince is just one of a number of flowers and fruits sampled from trees in Oxford Botanic Garden, the others being Plymouth Pear, Sorbus spp., Black and White Mulberry and Medlar. While in another of the Garden’s collections a few miles south of the city, at the University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum, the collection of conifer trees there has been an essential source of drawing and research materials for the authors.

We are very grateful to Tom Price, curator of the hardy plant collection at University of Oxford Botanic Garden, and to Ben Jones, arboretum curator at University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum, and to all their staff.

Fall in woodland

Gallery
Fall in woodland

This image is a 360° panorama made from 13 separate photographs that I captured recently in an English woodland.

The images were shot with a Lumix DFC-GF2 and 7mm (14mm equivalent in 35mm format) lens. I used a tripod and mounted the camera vertically, levelling the camera carefully so that as I swung it around my position it remained level. I made sure that each shot overlapped the last by at least 50%. I fixed the focus and the aperture using manual settings (f11). Finally, I took an image of the sky overhead, and one of the ground after removing the camera from the tripod.

I combined the images using the free and excellent panorama maker: Hugin. I set the perspective to ‘fisheye’ and manipulated the viewpoint to create the image until I was happy with it.

The colours and texture of Autumn are perfectly captured, with a hint of seasonal swirling winds. I love the idea of falling into the woodland; like disappearing down a silvan plug hole.

The sharp-eyed of my regular readers may recognise the star in this image: the ancient ash coppice stool depicted in my Coppice Story.

Fall in woodland

Fall in woodland by Gabriel Hemery. Click to enlarge.

Gabriel Hemery

English Autumnal landscape

Gallery
Barrow Wake panorama

Barrow Wake is a well-known viewpoint near the village of Birdlip in Gloucestershire, England. It has fine views from its seat on the Cotswolds, looking West over the Vale of Gloucester towards the distant Malvern Hills.

The view was particularly fine earlier this week when I happened to be passing through the village. The rich autumnal colours looked stunning in the late afternoon sunlight, adding a wonderful luminescence to the bright green fields and bronze tree foliage. The sun’s low angle in the sky also emphasised the interesting landforms.

I took three photographs (DMC-GF2, 14mm (28mm), f11.0, 1/60th, ISO100, handheld). It is always good to fix as many settings as possible when taking photos that you intend to link later in a panorama. So, if you can adjust manual settings on your camera, select a suitable aperture (f stop) and focus point. I stitched these together, using the excellent program Hugin – panorama photo stitcher, to create this panorama. Hugin is a very powerful program which enables all types of panoramas to be created, including 360 degree images in different perspectives: see some inspiring examples. Not only is it powerful and flexible but as it is open source program it is free to download. Post editing in Adobe Lightroom allowed some fine tweaking using saturation, clarity settings, and a subtle graduation filter to be added to the sky.

Barrow Wake panorama

The view from Barrow Wake, near Birdlip in Gloucestershire, England. Click to enlarge.

Full screen panorama

Gabriel Hemery

Raining acorns

September 30, 2011

Gabriel Hemery

Acorns and dog walking
Acorns and dog walking

Walking my dog in an acorn shower

At this time of year our woodlands are spectacular; seemingly a palette containing every colour ranging from the oranges and russet browns of fallen oak leaves, the red of hawthorn berries, to psychedelic pinks in Spindle fruits. Observe closely and your senses can be entertained in other ways too. During a walk through a local woodland with my dog, I was enthralled by a percussion performance by a stand of oak trees .. it was raining acorns.

I recorded the acorn music – click on the play button above to listen.

Listen carefully and you will hear three gusts of wind; each appearing as a rising crescendo of rustling approaching through the woodland. With each gust the shower of acorns increases. I love the way that the falling acorns make three distinct sounds: crashing through the leaves of the canopy, tonking on the branches that sometime block their way, and thudding as they hit the ground.  Some fall very close to my recording equipment too!

It seems that 2011 is a mast year for oak, at least in parts of southern Britain. Oak trees produce acorns every year but every four to seven years they produce an extra heavy crop.  These are called mast years. There is still plenty of debate as to why trees behave in this way: it could be to do with water availability, temperature (in winter or spring), lack of frost during flowering or other reasons (see this scientific paper). We know that the extra effort put into producing so much seed can reduce the amount that a tree grows that year. Here is an interesting piece of work I came across, called dendromastecology, that provides evidence about the tradeoff between incremental tree growth and reproductive effort.

My walk left me wondering, along the lines of a popular saying, whether:

If an acorn falls in a forest,

And no-one is around to hear it,

Does it make a sound?

Gabriel Hemery

Autumn leaf glory

November 9, 2010

Gabriel Hemery

There have been spectacular Autumn colours in our trees this year.  I’m often asked why one year can be better than another, and about the science behind leaf colour (“fall color” in the US).

autumn colour

The science behind Autumn leaf colour

Our broadleaved trees are largely responsible for the colour in our gardens, parks and forests, although some deciduous conifers, such as Larch, are also colourful. The change from summer green to autumn glory is triggered mainly by shortening day length, and partly by cooler temperatures.  Inside the tree, these environmental changes result in biological changes in the junction between stem and leaf.  The cells divide to create a cork-like (abscission) layer that acts as a barrier to materials such as carbohydrates that previously passed from leaf to stem, and minerals  that were transported from the roots to the leaf.

What about the colour?  During the growing season the green (chlorophyll) masks all the other colour pigments in leaves (except in plants such as the Copper Beech).  When the corky barrier forms between leaf and stem no more chlorophyll can reach the leaves and sunlight gradually breaks it down. As it fades the other colours become visible and we see the glorious Autumn shades of purple/red (anthocyanins), orange (carotenoids)and yellow (xanthophylls).  Eventually these pigments are broken down in the leaf and all that remains are the waste products (tannins).

Why are some years better than others?

The timing of the show of Autumn colour does not vary much from year to year because the process, as we’ve seen above, is largely dependent on day length. In terms of the colours, these can be influenced by the amount of sunlight, temperature,and rainfall.  Plenty of sunny Autumn days, if they come with low temperatures, will destroy the chlorophyll quickly revealing the other colours for longer. These conditions also promote the formation of more anthocyanins (purples and reds).

Unfortunately though, if it gets too cold anthocyanins are not produced, so an early frost means a premature end to colourful leaves.  Another factor that can reduce colour is drought stress during the growing season as this can lead to the early creation of the corky layer, meaning that leaves may drop before they have a chance to show off their colours.  Of course another impact comes from heavy rain or strong winds, both of which can damage and remove leaves from the trees.

Our love of Autumn leaf colour

Autumn colour is appreciated across the world where deciduous forests dominate but the display varies greatly from country to country, and in their different regions.  In Western Europe, where Autumns can be mild and cloudy, colours are modest in comparison to some areas of Scandinavia, Japan and North America.  In the United States, the Appalachians are famous for a long colour display where the high diversity of tree species can lead to a show of a month or more.  In New England, where maples dominate, the display is intense but often short-lived.

Our appreciation of Autumn tree colour is recognised, in some parts of the world, with dedicated names and can be important for local economies thanks to Autumn colour tourism.  Here are some examples:

Gabriel Hemery

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