Folhas Secas, part two

On a previous post, I wrote about my newest project photographing dry leaves. I mentioned a few advantages of working in projects over taking random photos and wrote that I was going to blog about the making of “Folhas secas” as I go along. 

One consideration when starting any project is answering the follwoing question: what am I trying to say“Folhas secas” was born out of my fascination with the form, shape, and texture of two dry tropical leaves. That gives me the foundation for my answer: I want other people to look at and pay attention to the form, shape, and texture of leaves that are past their prime and are already dry. I want to show that there is beauty in transmutation

Another consideration in the beginning of a project is to lay out a few guidelines. This will minimize distractionsdecrease the number of decisions the photographer must make for every photo, and ensure that the resulting photographs are compatible in style. For example, I knew from the beginning what I wanted to work in black and white, on a dark background, and have as much depth of field as possible without compromising detail. I also decided that I was going to work with a clean subject (free of debris, hairs etc). 

After I clarified my vision and rules, I took several pictures of the dry leaves I found around, using a narrow aperture (f/16-f/20), natural and artificial light. I shot from an angle, from above, from close, then backed off.

Above is a snapshot of my initial efforts, in my Adobe Bridge (AB) catalog, consistent with the file workflow outlined on a previous post. In my AB Dry Leaves folder, I store the Raw file for each shot, the processed PSD file with layers, and the final Tiff file with one layer. Whenever I make changes to the Photoshop file, I save it as a tiff after flattening the image. The Tiff file will be the file I will send to the printer. 

Summarizing (my way of) working in projects:

  1. Decide what I want to say with my project;
  2. Lay down a few guidelines for the execution of the project (background, depth of field, color versus black and white); 
  3. Take several shots using those first, general guidelines; 
  4. Organize my photos in a folder with the raw file and two processed versions, one in photoshop format, and one in tiff format.

In my next post, Folhas secas, part three, I share my setup with artificial light, designed to reveal the texture and detail of the thick leaves i find in California.

Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

10 thoughts on “Folhas Secas, part two

      1. oh. I do my black and white conversion in a photoshop layer, and then I adjust the levels also as a layer. The layers are then black and white and levels. It’s easier if I want to recover the color picture, I inactivate both layers. The levels adjustment I do for a color picture is not as contrasty as I do for black and white.


  1. Always of great interest to hear how other photographers think and plan. You’ve got some great advice and a great way of working I think, particularly in the ‘figuring out what I want to say’. That is always a tough one. It really shows in that the project really appears to be a beautiful one that is taking shape nicely.


    1. Howard, thanks for stopping by and for your input. I often also have trouble figuring out what I want to say with my photos. It has been a good turning point for me to start laying out some guidelines for a project rather than taking many pictures and trying to figure out, for each one, what I want to do. Do I prefer it in color or in black and white? Do I want shallow DOF or narrow aperture? This can be very time-consuming and end up in pictures that do not go together in a portfolio. Living and learning.


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