Typically, when fall comes to Arizona it does so incrementally, slowly working its way south from north and down from the high country to the lower deserts. There is variability year to year when the leaves start to change color and how long they last but fall inevitably comes.
Despite this regularity, I often find myself unprepared for those weekends when I do have time to go out and chase some fall color. By the time cooler weather sweeps the desert floors reminding me of the change in seasons the trees of the high country stand stark and bare, their bounty of color fading to brown on the forest floor. For 2022 I decided to be better prepared and scout out opportunities ahead of time, looking for new places to go. Oak Creek Canyon and Mt Humphreys are fantastic places for fall color if you don’t mind the crowds, but I was seeking the secluded and unexplored.
So, I spent a little time ahead of the change in season driving the forest roads of the Mogollon Rim, scouting out places to camp and hiking out into the woods looking for stands of trees that would make for good compositions. I also kept better records this time, marking locations that held promise as well as those that wouldn’t work.
I returned to one of those sites on a cold, cloudy morning that hinted of rain to come. For most of the day the rain never amounted to more than a intermittent drizzle, but there was enough to collect as beads of water on the leaves. My attention was drawn to the kaleidoscope of leaves on the forest floor, some freshly fallen and still bright with color. The sun occasionally slipped through the clouds, sending pools of light meandering across the ground, slowly fading into and out of the shadows. The light would sometimes linger in a spot, highlighting a freshly fallen leaf. The scene was fleeting, but I was able to capture the image posted here. My timing was a bit slow, however, and the light was fading when I took this shot, so I added a vignette in post processing to better convey what the scene was like.
Eventually the clouds grew heavier, the temperature dropped, and the rain began in earnest. I returned to my vehicle, reluctant to leave fall behind but content with my efforts for the day.