“I will go down with my colours flying.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry

Sunday evening. Sunny and autumnal, 63 degrees.

I’ve been saving this series of photographs for the perfect fall afternoon. It’s finally here. Enjoy the following beautiful images by Kacper Kowalski. For more of Kowalski’s incredible work, including his series Polish Autumn, click here.

By the way, I did not go through (since I am reblogging as published) and move the periods and commas to within the final quotation mark as they should be, even though this is one of my major grammatical pet peeves. I have to admit, I thought about it though . . .

                   

Reblogged from The Guardian:

He shoots, he soars: Kacper Kowalski’s forest photographs – in pictures

Travel writer Robert Macfarlane responds to photographer Kacper Kowalski’s giddily beautiful aerial shots of Poland’s forests in autumn

Henry James called it “the figure in the carpet”: a pattern that is imperceptible when seen from close up, but startlingly visible from above. For a century and a half, aerial photography has been revealing such patterns in the landscape: from prehistoric earthworks and trackways to the intricate designs of motorway flyovers and suburban street plans. The elevated perspective – once the view only of “the hawk” and “the ­helmeted airman”, in WH Auden’s phrase of 1930 – has become increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life. Satellite mapping has made gods and birds of us all, swooping over virtual surfaces of the Earth, while abstract patterns issue and vanish with a slide of the zoom-bar.

Kacper Kowalski’s astonishingly beautiful ­photographs of the autumnal Polish woodland disclose the figures in the forest carpet. Seen from above, tree species whose greens blend together for much of the year are vividly distinguished by their different fall colours, the change of season acting as a chromatograph. In one image, an area of forestry has been replanted and the younger trees assume a Mondrian-like geometry: Aztec red and gold rectangles and rhomboids of green and mauve, separated by logging tracks. In another, a band of heath, flanked by chalky ploughed fields, resembles a Rothko in its blocks and stripes of colour, and in the deep, ­eye-absorbing purple of its heather.

Several of Kowalski’s most striking photographs practise exquisite deceptions of scale. A diamond-shaped island, set in a lake whose surface itself looks like the sky, might be a micro-terrain of mosses and lichens on a boulder. Reed-marsh cupped in the curves of a river has the intricately crinkled texture of chamois leather. The ­spreading grey canopies of beech trees closely resemble nano-scale imagery of human nerve endings. Indeed, our neurons possess “dendrites” (from the Greek word dendron, meaning “tree”) – the branching projections that conduct electrochemical stimulation from synapse to nerve cell, and that overlap to form what neuroscience memorably calls a “dendritic arbor”. The outer landscape has christened the inner.

Autumn leaf-turn expresses a death that is also a renewal. Through spring and summer, green chlorophyll is the dominant leaf pigment. But as day-length decreases and temperatures fall, chlorophyll production in the leaves is reduced, eventually to the point of extinction. As the ­chlorophyll content declines, other pigments begin to shine through: carotenoids – that flame-orange, yellow and gold – brown tannins and the rarer redder anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are produced by the action of sustained strong light upon the sugars that get trapped in leaves as the tree’s vascular system prepares for leaf-drop. In these ways, deciduous trees scorch themselves spectacularly back to their bare branches, in order to survive the winter and prepare for the resurg­ence of spring. It’s a process that still speaks to us – unseasonal though most of our lives now are – as we start to batten down for the cold to come.

British woodlands lack in number the real fire-starters of the North American forests: the maples, aspens and sumacs that set whole mountain ranges ablaze each autumn. The pleasures here tend to be subtler, and certainly smaller in scale.

In Cambridgeshire, where I live, the first trees to turn are the acers – the sycamores and field maples – that glow doubloon-yellow and then burn ember-red. The beeches, oaks and hornbeams take their colour later and hold their leaves longer: entering a beech hanger on a bright, mid-autumn day is like stepping into a light box. The sunlight assumes the hues of the leaves through which it passes, and so falls inside the wood as gold, green and bronze. When a frost is followed by a gale, spectacular leaf falls occur and vast leaf drifts build up, big enough for children to burrow into. I particularly like the brimstone yellow of the sweet chestnut, and the acid yellow of the larch (a deciduous conifer). Up in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire one November, I cycled through larch plantations after a frost-gale combination had knocked millions of needles from the trees. They lay in glowing reefs that seemed to possess a lustre rather than a colour.

The forest, seen from the elevation of Kowalski’s camera, becomes more artefact than ecosystem. Details are encrypted by altitude: is the winged shadow that falls in the blue lake that of a boat on its surface, a raptor flying overhead, or the photographer’s own aircraft? Are the silver shards that cluster the shoreline of the diamond-shaped island waterfowl or boulders? It doesn’t really matter: the viewer makes his or her own sense of the sight.

I suppose this is why I slightly distrust aerial photography. The images it offers us are often arrestingly beautiful, but this beauty is born of abstraction, distance and detachment. Seen from above, landscape tends to reduce to pure form, and our relationship with it to the purely aesthetic. I would much rather be tramping through an autumnal forest than flying over one. It’s for this reason that my favourite of Kowalski’s images is that of the dendritic beech wood. The trees are bare of their leaves, so we can see down to the footpath that slants across the frame. And just visible upon the track are a couple of walkers, out for a wander, making their own pattern in the copper carpet of leaves.


Music by Carina Round, “For Everything a Reason”

 

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