Leaves: A Fall Project

red maple
Red maple (Acer rubrum).

Of the many enchanting parts of plants, leaves may be the most wonderful. They add color, form, and oxygen to our world. The sheer amount of variation in leaves is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that most true leaves have one basic function: photosynthesis. This is a function so critical to life on this planet that you would assume plants would not want to mess around. But they do. The result is an almost incomprehensibly wide variety of shapes, sizes, arrangements, margins, venation patterns, pubescence, and almost any other characteristic you could imagine.

red oak
Red oak (Quercus rubra).

This fall I undertook a project to highlight my favorite part of autumn: the amazing variation in leaves. This was my final project for a class at College of the Atlantic that focused on the taxonomy and identification of woody plants.

Pressed leaves in Lightroom
After photographing 250 individual leaves, I had a plethora to choose from for the final video. Shown here: Quercus rubra (red oak, top), Fagus grandifolia (American beech, middle right), Acer pensylvanicum (stripped maple, bottom).

When I began this project I did not have a great idea of how the final product would look. While I had a stop-motion style video in mind after only a few weeks into the term, how I would carry out this video remained unknown. So during the fall I gathered and pressed any leaf that caught my fancy. This lead to a shortage of some types of leaves and an abundance of others, but overall I was happy with my collection through late October, when I individually photographed over 200 pressed leaves.

Using a light board to photograph leaves.
Using a light board to photograph leaves (not the final setup).

The final video I made is not a complete collection of these photographs, but merely a short clip meant to feature some of the diversity in leaf form. If you enjoyed the video, which draws from only six taxonomic families (Acer, Betula, Fagus, Populus, Quercus), I made a special gallery to showcase the most interesting leaves of all kinds that I photographed this fall, including the purple compound leaves of Fraxinus americana, white ash.


Browse more fall pressed leaf photographs here.