Sunday, September 22, 2013

'tis Autumn...

...from a photographer's notebook

Autumn in the Piedmont - Kodachrome by Steve Ember ©2010

My favorite season arrived this afternoon at 4:44 PM in the eastern U.S.

I made sure to have Frank Sinatra’s sublime recording, with Billy May’s deft arranging and conducting, of “Autumn in New York” handy, both at home and in my car, so that, no matter where I happened to be, I could welcome the Autumnal Equinox appropriately, as well as thank Mother Nature for being so very cooperative in ensuring a sunny and dry start to the season.

Radio stations have, by and large, moved away from Sinatra and other genuine song stylists, toward “music” that tends to generate, at least for the scribe of this wee bloggie, shall we say, less than genteel language. And I intend for this post to be nothing less than genteel – and gentle – only right for this glorious season. Heck, as long as my cars contain at least one CD slot (or even, yes, a cassette transport), I’m just fine with creating mixes to take down the road.

But I do rely on radio to inform as to breaking news, impending gridlock, and approaching weather fronts (then, of course, I revert to my music, whether to ease the gridlock teeth gnashing or to enhance the mood of a crisp sunny autumn afternoon). And, soon of course, with the approaching time change, we’ll be hearing those reminders amidst news stories to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

But the first day of autumn prompts me to check other batteries – the ones in my cameras. And since my buying spree last summer to snatch up some more film cameras to join my “analog fleet” and share the pack with my digital equipment, that means checking lots of batteries, and making sure I’ve got ample  back-up stock of everything from little silver button cells to big hulking 2CR5s and lots of AAs for my motor drives. I mean, when perfect autumn colors and gorgeous cumulus or cirrus-laced skies beckon, I want to be certain any camera I grab up is ready for action.

So, why is “Autumn in New York”* my quintessential autumn song? 

Sure, lots of great songs have been written about autumn, whether celebrating its beauty or romance…even songs gently evoking the “autumn” of one’s years.

“But now the days are short,
I’m in the autumn of the year,
And I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs…”

Sinatra again, this time more autumnal himself, with (dare I use the word again – damn right I will, ‘cause it fits) the sublime arranging of Gordon Jenkins behind him in “It Was a Very Good Year.”

And who can forget the wistful, resigned lyrics of “September Song” as sung by Walter Huston in “Knickerbocker Holiday?”

But “Autumn in New York” is somehow universal, at least as it evokes romantically the season in any big, vibrant city…New York, Chicago, London

“Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel,
They’re making me feel
I’m home…”

Thank you, dear Vernon Duke.

Not that all of my autumn shooting favors only vibrant cities, for I’m equally as apt to escape with the cameras into such color-vibrant venues as the nearby Virginia Piedmont…or the Swiss Alps…or the Canadian Rockies.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be posting some favorite autumn images, both here and on my pages on Foto-Community, some new, some vintage. The one up top is actually a Kodachrome, speaking of feeling sentimental. It was part of my "Last Hurrah with the Kodachrome" in late 2010, when I was determined to give my last freezer-stashed rolls of K-25 their very best opportunities to shine, while that iconic film could still be processed. Around that mission was built a lovely trip to the Swiss Alps, as well as a first visit to Hamburg (occasioned by a concert of Bert Kaempfert tunes at the Kehrwieder Theater around the time of the much-loved composer's birthday anniversary). Mother Nature smiled down on me and the cameras each day, with superb autumn weather; and, on my return, the two remaining rolls were treated to some superb autumn colors on two splendid Sundays in the Virginia Piedmont. 

Should any of the autumn motifs I'll be posting strike your fancy, I’d be delighted to hear from you. As I’ve written before, shooting is often a solitary endeavor; and, enjoyable as I find it, there is definitely a subsequent joy in being able to share those results and travel experiences, whether in exhibits or on these pages. 

Ah, yes, much to look forward to in the weeks ahead, as colors march toward their peak, and thoughts of festive holidays sneak into one’s thoughts. The cameras and I plan to stay busy!

Oh, about feeling “autumnal”…

While travel and photography keep me feeling (relatively) young, I’ll mention three olfactory memories from my distant youth that I do miss…

The fragrance of burning leaves…I know, not a good thing for the atmosphere, but back then, we didn’t know better. It just kinda went along with other delectable autumn aromas…such as Fiske’s (gotta say it again) sublime pumpkin pie. Guess you just had to be from Baltimore (and of a certain age) to clue in on that one. My Dad's briar pipes (yeah, we didn't know better about that either). Oh, yes, and the crisp ozone-y aroma that my Lionel O-Gauge Santa Fe F-3 diesels emitted as they roared across the mainline of my model railroad.

Ahh, ‘tis Autumn. Do feed the squirrels.

P.S: Hint for holiday gifting: I might mention that, if any of my autumn photos should strike a chord, musical or otherwise,  most images can be had as gallery prints or as custom printed photo note cards. For more information, please contact me at the e-mail address shown in the right column. And if you'd like to see the card version of the image up top, please click here.

©2013 Steve Ember

*Musical Autumn - as good as it gets!

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