The first signs of autumn are welcomed in Pennsylvania

A few days ago I gave the students in my nature photography class an assignment – to document photographically the first signs of fall.

That would be an easy assignment for me, but not for a few of my 14 college students. Two call an island on another continent their home, and a couple others are likely too “citified” to recognize the natural cues that are so obvious to me, and likely to other hunters, fall anglers, hikers and campers.

If you are from Taiwan, you have a good excuse. However, I fear that some of my Pennsylvania students are not in tune with Mother Nature’s rhythms and natural cycles. Maybe they just never stopped to think about it before.

I don’t need to consult a calendar to tell me that fall is just around the corner. The signals are everywhere. The first night that is cool enough to silence the crickets, fawns losing their spots, hints of color in the trees and shrubs, the sound of acorns dropping, Virginia creeper turning scarlet, asters and goldenrods blooming, or even a whiff of that rich “woodsy” aroma that I associate with rabbit hunting – all of these and others remind me of the season’s impending change.

One can put on a flannel shirt to fend off the cold, but of course, you can’t digitalize a cool night (or maybe you can – I’ll leave that up to my students.). What would I photograph to document the early signs of autumn?

I can think of several dozen things that I have noticed already. Many would make excellent photographic subjects. Closed gentian – a fall-blooming, native purple wildflower is showing its color. Fallow fields are turning yellow and lavender with goldenrods and asters. Then there are the birch trees displaying a hint of yellow, a single green acorn lying on the forest floor and wetland shrubs that are already more burgundy than green.

Maybe the best photographic subject would be the single colored leaf that I saw clinging to a moss-covered log.

Get out and enjoy Penns Woods. The signs of autumn are all around, but they are personal for each outdoor lover. I hope that the assignment encourages my students to touch base with nature and that they respond with creative photographic imagery.

I am pretty sure that they will.

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