As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas and colors enough to paint the beautiful things I see.

— Vincent Van Gogh

It is time. The official start of autumn, per our calendars, began on September 21st. Nature, however, runs on its own schedule, not our expectations. We have nothing to do with a season’s timing, temperatures or colors. Depending on your elevation and your latitude from North to South, your fall season, with peak colors rolling along, might begin sooner or later. The northern states are likely in the middle of turning, while here in the South (in the coastal flatlands), we are experiencing only hints of the colors to come.

Try photographing fall with a wide angle lens.

THE LEAVES

Every season has its icons. The leaves, the changing colors of fall foliage, are the stars of this cycle. It’s the time when the chlorophyll is breaking down. The changes are helped by cooler temperatures at night and warm summer days. Moisture also plays a part in the process. Strictly talking leaves, the color palette of autumn is primarily yellow, orange, red, purple, brown … and green. There are some trees and plants, such as magnolias, rhododendrons, evergreens, that stay green all year long. Some browns and burnt yellows make there way in, but there are greens that also mix with the bones of winter.

Celebrating all the colors of the season with Lensbaby

Dead Lakes autumn from a boat

MORE TO AUTUMN THAN THE FOLIAGE

It’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t love when the temperatures of summer tone down and the colors amp up. For some, fall is their favorite season. Each season holds something special for me. When I consider this season of warm tones, I think of it as a “Second Spring.” The leaves on trees shift from the greens to the warmer color palette (golds, reds, yellows, browns and more), and a host of plants come alive and into view. The pumpkins magically appear in the fields, nurseries, farm stands and your local grocery stores. The apple orchards explode as the harvest begins. Festivals and celebrations add color and flavor to our tables and towns. Words like “crisp,” “fresh,” and “cool” roll off our tongues, while we start to put our sweaters and light jackets on. The idea of making soups, stews, pies and all measure of comfort foods rises higher in our minds and kitchens. At some point, we push away the grills, watermelons and ice cream and pack away our swimsuits and shorts. Reluctantly, I allude to a certain spice that is launched everywhere as the all season begins.

Fall season is harvest time.

Pumpkins everywhere in the mountains of Virginia

CONSIDER THE FLOWERS

I’m in good company with my love for the fall season. In fact, Albert Camus was the one who likely first referenced a connection between spring and fall. He said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” He must have loved flowers, too.

One thing I do know about this second spring is that it brings a whole new and different variety of flowers. Dahlias, for example, often thrive toward end of summer into fall and go until the first frost in most places. Morning glories, asters and goldenrod appear. Milkweed pods show up and scatter their seeds upon popping. Ironweed, other wildflowers not seen in spring or summer make their way into the world as if by a wave of a wand. Mums are everywhere. You may not know this, but apparently the chrysanthemum is the “queen of fall flowers.” Go to any garden center or farm stand or do a porch tour in your neighborhood. You’ll see. A little tidbit I learned, if you stick your mums in the dirt, they’ll come back the next year. Who knew?

Dahlias love the fall weather and come in many colors

Dahlia with a touch of fall color tucked in its petals

What I also love about the flowers – all of them – besides their seasonal colors and shapes is how they dry and die and the skeletons they leave behind. What remains offers wabi sabi photography opportunities as well as bonus seed-gathering options. When you’re done using them as models, you can throw them in your garden (like I do) and see what comes back to life next year. This is my camo-thumbed, non-gardener method. No expectations other than to be surprised. Those with green thumbs may view this method differently. At times I do get lucky. Otherwise, I find gardens and friends with gardens to locate new subjects.

A walk in the woods reveals new flowers