Moving in Closer: Marcescence and Mother Nature's Modern Art

Unless you’re a botanist you’ve probably never heard of marcescence. Well, it’s a fancy, somewhat unpronounceable word to describe deciduous trees that keep their leaves normally shed in the Fall.  Here’s an example below from a recent walkabout in Pound Ridge Reservation. You might ask yourself, as I did, why this happens – or doesn’t happen. Maybe it’s just the exception that proves the rule: Fall is when leaves fall?  Apparently, no one really knows the reason for marcescence but some experts speculate that keeping dead leaves is a defensive measure to deter hungry deer from a meal of soft twigs and buds.  Who knew trees were so smart?

Speaking of rules, photography teachers suggest that the better image is often had by moving in closer to the subject.  I do agree and must own up to the fact that, sometimes in post image capture processing (sharpening, cropping, etc.), I find that part of the picture I took is more interesting than the original.  Like the one below which moves in closer by cropping, i.e. using software rather than footsteps.  I prefer the second image but it’s debatable which best illustrates the marvel of marcescence.  What do you think?

I also mentioned Modern Art at the outset of this ramble.  What’s the connection? 

A bit indirect but it turns out my marcescent tree was growing next to a stream which, while not strongly coursing, was flowing along nicely and rolling over some semi-submerged rocks.  How about shooting a close-up image here?  Since walking on water is not one of my talents, the answer was a long telephoto lens, 400 mm to be precise.  

The object of moving in with the big lens here was to let Nature attempt some art on her own – modern, abstract art, something nonrepresentational, where no one need ask: “What is this a picture of?”   Mother Nature just wanted to capture some shapes, colors, textures and lines into a composition independent of things in the real world.  I assisted by turning a few camera dials and getting in tight with the telephoto. With apologies to Mr. Pollock, Mother Nature especially liked this result below:

More of her work can be found here: