Autumn & Fall Photography | Colorful Mountains and Trees
Mountains and Trees displaying the colors of Autumn
Autumn and Fall Color Photos Gallery is a collection of fine art nature photography by Jess Lee featuring the beautiful colors of Autumn from the Pacific Northwest, Sierras, Wyoming and Colorado Rockies to the lush color of New England.
Fall is a time when beauty abounds as the leaves turn colors of yellow, gold, reds and even pink. Colorado and New england are famous but every state and provance has a special place for fall color. These images are offered as high quality Exclusive Limited Edition prints for sale as created by Jess Lee. My prints are made from the finest materials in the industry and are available as Lumachrome® HD Trulife® Acrylic Prints, Exhibit Mounted Metal Prints, and Fuji Crystal Archive Prints.
So what make the Color of Fall?
Autumn leaf color is a phenomenon that affects the normal green leaves of many deciduoustrees and shrubs by which they take on, during a few weeks in the autumn season, various shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. The phenomenon is commonly called autumn colours or autumn foliage in British English and fall colors,fall foliage, or simply foliage in American English.
A green leaf is green because of the presence of a pigment known as chlorophyll, which is inside an organelle called a chloroplast. When abundant in the leaf's cells, as during the growing season, the chlorophyll's green color dominates and masks out the colors of any other pigments that may be present in the leaf. Thus, the leaves of summer are characteristically green.
In this leaf, the veins are still green, while the other tissue is turning red. This produces a fractal-like pattern
Chlorophyll has a vital function: it captures solar rays and uses the resulting energy in the manufacture of the plant's food — simple sugars which are produced from water and carbon dioxide. These sugars are the basis of the plant's nourishment — the sole source of the carbohydrates needed for growth and development. In their food-manufacturing process, the chlorophylls break down, thus are being continually "used up". During the growing season, however, the plant replenishes the chlorophyll so that the supply remains high and the leaves stay green.
As autumn approaches, with daylight hours shortening and temperatures cooling, the veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaf are gradually closed off as a layer of special cork cells forms at the base of each leaf. As this cork layer develops, water and mineral intake into the leaf is reduced, slowly at first, and then more rapidly. During this time, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaf begins to decrease. Often, the veins are still green after the tissues between them have almost completely changed color.
Much chlorophyll is in photosystem II (light-harvesting complex II or LHC II), the most abundant membrane protein on earth. LHC II captures light in photosynthesis. It is located in the thylakoid membrane of the chloroplast and it is composed of an apoprotein along with several ligands, the most important of which are chlorophylls a and b. In the autumn, this complex is broken down. Chlorophyll degradation is thought to occur first. Research suggests that the beginning of chlorophyll degradation is catalyzed by chlorophyll b reductase, which reduces chlorophyll b to 7‑hydroxymethyl chlorophyll a, which is then reduced to chlorophyll a. This is believed to destabilize the complex, at which point breakdown of the apoprotein occurs. An important enzyme in the breakdown of the apoprotein is FtsH6, which belongs to the FtsH family of proteases.
Chlorophylls degrade into colorless tetrapyrroles known as nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites. As the chlorophylls degrade, the hidden pigments of yellow xanthophylls and orange beta-carotene are revealed. These pigments are present throughout the year, but the red pigments, the anthocyanins, are synthesized de novo once roughly half of chlorophyll has been degraded. The amino acids released from degradation of light harvesting complexes are stored all winter in the tree's roots, branches, stems, and trunk until the next spring, when they are recycled to releaf the tree.
Carotenoids are present in leaves the throughout the year, but their orange-yellow colors are usually masked by green chlorophyll. As autumn approaches, certain influences both inside and outside the plant cause the chlorophylls to be replaced at a slower rate than they are being used up. During this period, with the total supply of chlorophylls gradually dwindling, the "masking" effect slowly fades away. Then other pigments present (along with the chlorophylls) in the leaf's cells begin to show through.These are carotenoids and they provide colorations of yellow, brown, orange, and the many hues in between.
The carotenoids occur, along with the chlorophyll pigments, in tiny structures called plastids, within the cells of leaves. Sometimes, they are in such abundance in the leaf that they give a plant a yellow-green color, even during the summer. Usually, however, they become prominent for the first time in autumn, when the leaves begin to lose their chlorophyll.
The reds, the purples, and their blended combinations that decorate autumn foliage come from another group of pigments in the cells called anthocyanins. Unlike the carotenoids, these pigments are not present in the leaf throughout the growing season, but are actively produced towards the end of summer. They develop in late summer in the sap of the cells of the leaf, and this development is the result of complex interactions of many influences—both inside and outside the plant. Their formation depends on the breakdown of sugars in the presence of bright light as the level of phosphate in the leaf is reduced.
During the summer growing season, phosphate is at a high level. It has a vital role in the breakdown of the sugars manufactured by chlorophyll, but in the fall, phosphate, along with the other chemicals and nutrients, moves out of the leaf into the stem of the plant. When this happens, the sugar-breakdown process changes, leading to the production of anthocyanin pigments. The brighter the light during this period, the greater the production of anthocyanins and the more brilliant the resulting color display. When the days of autumn are bright and cool, and the nights are chilly but not freezing, the brightest colorations usually develop.
Anthocyanins are present in about 10% of tree species in temperate regions, although in certain areas — most famously northern New England — up to 70% of tree species may produce the pigment. In autumn forests, they appear vivid in the maples, oaks, sourwood, sweetgums, dogwoods, tupelos, cherry trees, and persimmons. These same pigments often combine with the carotenoids' colors to create the deeper orange, fiery reds, and bronzes typical of many hardwood species.
The brown color of leaves is not the result of a pigment, but rather cell walls, which may be evident when no coloring pigment is visible.
Function of autumn color
Deciduous plants were traditionally believed to shed their leaves in autumn primarily because the high costs involved in their maintenance would outweigh the benefits from photosynthesis during the winter period of low light availability and cold temperatures. In many cases, this turned out to be oversimplistic — other factors involved include insect predation, water loss, and damage from high winds or snowfall.
Anthocyanins, responsible for red-purple coloration, are actively produced in autumn, but not involved in leaf-drop. A number of hypotheses on the role of pigment production in leaf-drop have been proposed, and generally fall into two categories: interaction with animals, and protection from nonbiological factors.
According to the photoprotection theory, anthocyanins protects the leaf against the harmful effects of light at low temperatures. The leaves are about to fall, so protection is not of extreme importance for the tree. Photo-oxidation and photoinhibition, however, especially at low temperatures, make the process of reabsorbing nutrients less efficient. By shielding the leaf with anthocyanins, according to the photoprotection theory, the tree manages to reabsorb nutrients (especially nitrogen) more efficiently.
According to the coevolution theory, the colors are warning signals to insects like aphids that use trees as a host for the winter. If the colors are linked to the amount of chemical defenses against insects, then the insects will avoid red leaves and increase their fitness; at the same time, trees with red leaves have an advantage because they reduce their parasite load. This has been shown in the case of apple treeswhere some domesticated apple varieties, unlike wild ones, lack red leaves in autumn. A greater proportion of aphids that avoid apple trees with red leaves manage to grow and develop compared to those that do not. A trade-off, moreover, exists between fruit size, leaf color, and aphids resistance as varieties with red leaves have smaller fruits, suggesting a cost to the production of red leaves linked to a greater need for reduced aphid infestation.
Consistent with red-leaved trees providing reduced survival for aphids, tree species with bright leaves tend to select for more specialist aphid pests than do trees lacking bright leaves (autumn colors are useful only in those species coevolving with insect pests in autumn).
The coevolution theory of autumn colors was proposed by W. D. Hamilton in 2001 as an example of evolutionary signalling theory. With biological signals such as red leaves, it is argued that because they are costly to produce, they are usually honest, so signal the true quality of the signaller with low-quality individuals being unable to fake them and cheat. Autumn colors would be a signal if they are costly to produce, or be impossible to fake (for example if autumn pigments were produced by the same biochemical pathway that produces the chemical defenses against the insects).
The change of leaf colors prior to fall have also been suggested as adaptations that may help to undermine the camouflage of herbivores.
Many plants with berries attract birds with especially visible berry and/or leaf color, particularly bright red. The birds get a meal, while the shrub, vine, or typically small tree gets undigested seeds carried off and deposited with the birds' manure. Poison ivy is particularly notable for having bright-red foliage drawing birds to its off-white seeds (which are edible for birds, but not most mammals).