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2020 Trip Chronicles:    Contents
Santa Clara Valley 12/2
Santa Clara Valley 12/3
Santa Clara Valley 12/6

Santa Clara Valley

Most urban deciduous street trees about the very urban area of Santa Clara Valley where I live, show fall leaf color between late November and mid December. That is well after those of native coastal California tree species like bigleaf maples. There are several species commonly planted by arborists between sidewalks and streets. The below Canon ELPH190 photo shows a view on a local neighborhood street with a flowering pear, pyrus calleryana, at near center while at right further down the street is a southern sweetgum, liquidambar styraciflua, purple-leaf plum, prunus cerasifera is just left of the pear, further down the street at left are some Chinese pistache, pistacia chinensis, and yellow fall leaves of Chinese gingko, gingko biloba, aka maidenhair tree.


On a chilly Wednesday morning December 2, 2020, I set out with gear walking local streets where I worked a few modest images that whetted my appetite for doing some more urban leaf work on following days, something I'd not done seriously over decades given my orientation of natural California landscapes. Well much like my rose garden work in May, this was something that arose out of the pandemic sheltering in place orders that I found worthwhile, especially close-up leaf subjects while full tree shots given urban infrastructure, not so much.


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This first image above, was just around my block and shows a full frame of freshly fallen brilliant Chinese gingko, gingko biloba, leaves that tend to cover ground areas like yellow snow. The gingko is in the family of one of the most ancient tree species. Thus found a full frame subject covered in leaves with a few green blades of grass poking through. All my close-up leaf photos were taken under early morning skylight versus harsh direct sunlight, that given our marine climate with water vapor, tends to be a light whitish cyan blue. Note the difference in yellow hue between the two sides of the fan shaped leaf blades and the long yellow petioles.


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This next image above shows more fallen gingko leaves against its trunk.


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Above is an image from around my residential block of a most common street tree up against blue sky, a southern sweetgum, liquidambar styraciflua. Given my aversion to urban infrastructure like power and telecom lines, when I do work a full tree subject, it is more likely to be the result of my pointing the camera upward against a blue sky background. Walking streets, one will see many aesthetic trees in which that is not possible so finding those so isolated requires some effort. The sweetgum is native to our Southeastern states and though the above is mostly reds and oranges, it has a wonderful range of fall leaf colors including yellows and purples. Non-native eastern tree squirrels are locally abundant making their nests in these trees and consume the round hard spiky nut contaning seeds that after windy weather cover the ground with rolling balls treacherous to walk on haha.


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The next day on Thursday morning December 3, 2020 given light breezes, I decided to drive around our vast expanse of quiet residential streets looking for more subjects. Along a Little League baseball field wire fence was the above pile of sweetgum leaves from a tree above with light purple fall leaves mixed in with some dried brown leaves that had fallen days earlier. Note some sweetgums have areas of dark purple leaves in which other branches of the same tree are all manner of other colors. These palmate leaves are also attached via long petioles that here are the same hue as the leaf.


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The most impressive subjects I discovered were close-ups of fallen leaves of Chinese pistache, pistacia chinensis. It is rather rare to see a photographer walking along urban streets with a large tripod so I was careful not to look like a threat or step beyond the public street and sidewalk areas. Anything I could shoot from those public positions including private property areas was fair game like adjacent lawns. That is especially true in residential areas where strangers are uncommon. The pistache offer a wonderful range of hues with considerable fine leaf detail. The above brilliant yellow and red fallen leaves were an uncommon find on the ground as most trees don't drop their leaves while they are still so saturated.


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The above image of fallen Chinese pistache leaves shows what most less fresh, drier leaves offer below trees. Such a wonderful range of pastel color hues. To appreciate the fine detail in this species, look at the enlarged vertical slice view link. Looking at the link, one can see how the compound panicle leaflets are attached to their long petioles at what are termed rachi. Many of the fallen leaflets become detached from petiole stalks. Also note how the end of petioles widen where they attach to branches, termed pulvina, since that is where structures need to be strongest to withstand flexing in wind.


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And a second similar image above of fallen Chinese pistache leaves. At frame upper left, do you see the red branch with 5 red leaflets? Look closely and one will see the second leaflet has an opposite leaf on the petiole that has flipped upsidedown showing its underside as yellow while leaflets have apparently broken loose from other rachi along the petiole. Most other leaves in the frame are without a petiole or with just one leaf so attached.

Three days later on a calm early Sunday morning December 6, 2020 after a minor bout breezes, returned to a subject I had seen Thursday. The image at page top in the holiday spirit of Christmas Tree colorful ornaments is a very common flowering pear, pyrus calleryana, that presents a wonderful array of different hues. The sun was still at low altitude in order to work the tree in diffuse skylight. Although it was indeed near calm, the slight movement of leaves causing mis-registration was still enough that I completely manually rebuilt the image from 40 focus stack blended shots that required a tedious 20 plus hours of work in Zerene Stacker. High detail in this type of tree subject with extreme depth of field, has only recently been possible with digital focus stacking.


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Driving around about 15 miles this morning, I came upon another Chinese pistache tree that was shedding strongly saturated leaves. This subject was just off the sidewalk on a private lawn so one can see a few lawnmower cut leaf blades poking up between leaves. Although I usually prefer a more perpendicular lens position for close-up subjects, this more oblique angle in portrait orientation worked well.


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My last subject this morning and likely last A6000 photo this year of 2020, was also on a grassy green lawn of an apartment building that I again shot in portrait orientation obliquely from the sidewalk. Near midday along an east to west street, the building provided nice shade to the lawn given the low Decemeber sun altitude. So in diffuse skylight worked this flowering pear, pyrus calleryana, leaves showing the wide range of colors including a few that fell days before and are now a dull brown. Once leaves of any species fall from trees, they will immediately begin to lose saturation, dry, and brown, so the time when leaves are most colorful is brief. During future fall leaf periods after the pandemic, am likely to visit San Francisco that has a great many trees of more variety plus better complementing urban views. Thus will continue to scope out possible subjects during the interim months during visits.

2020 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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