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The Autumnal Rumpus is Upon Us

 
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Beginning with a few random leaves on your lawn in early to mid-September, October cascades into a brilliant wash of color, flaming our hills and valleys with hues we can only dream of creating with a paintbrush. Enter Mother Nature, the master artist. Her palette of reds, golds, greens and russets creates quite a spectacle, and the changing fall foliage never fails to delight us.

fall-smile-1.jpgJust when the leaves will change color, and how brilliant those colors will be, can’t be predicted too far in advance, because much depends on early fall weather. So, what exactly is the science behind the color change? Beginning in September, if nighttime temperatures turn cool, but above freezing, and the days are mostly clear, the climate stimulates better leaf color. If the weather is too warm, chlorophyll stays active longer, keeping the foliage green.

Chlorophyll begins to disappear from the leaves as the days grow shorter, exposing the yellows and oranges hidden underneath. These colors are created by carotenoids, occurring within the leaf’s cells. The bright reds and purples are made mostly in the fall from the glucose trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops; cold and rainy weather results in fewer red leaves. Sunlight and cool nights turn the glucose into a red color. It’s almost magical, isn’t it?

fall-smile-2.jpgLeaf looking is one of those joys which doesn’t require skill, just open eyes and an open heart to take it all in.  Here are a few things that may help make your outdoor excursion more enjoyable:

-  Autumn weather can change rapidly. It's a good idea to have a rain jacket, like the Women’s Torrentshell Jacket by Patagonia, and a light fleece, like the Men’s Covert Cardigan by Arc’teryx, handy in case the temperature drops or clouds appear.

-  It helps to take a picnic or snacks, especially if you are driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, where food options can be sparse.

-  Be sure your gas tank is full; in many scenic areas gas stations are few and far between.

-  Take your camera, with fresh batteries and plenty of space on the memory card.

-  If you’re a bird watcher, don’t forget those binoculars – autumn is a great time to enjoy watching the migration of seasonal avian residents.

fall-smile-3.jpgSpeaking of photos, here’s how to get the best shots possible to remember your trip by: Take pictures in the morning or evening, not at midday. Try some photos after a rain. See how much more vivid the colors are? Use a telephoto or zoom lens to pick out specific details, especially when there’s a multitude of colors in the landscape. A good tripod can be a great piece of equipment to own. Take some photos from a non-traditional point of view, such as lying down, shooting up into the leaf canopy of a tree, or even upriver or stream, with fall leaves floating your way. For even more helpful photography tips, click HERE.

For additional information about the science behind fall color, the 2015 Fall Prediction Foliage Map, and free children's coloring sheets identifying leaf shapes, click HERE.

Happy Leafing to one and all!