What We Got

Years ago, our plain-spoken Australian tour guide told us she couldn’t guarantee that we’d have a stunning sunset at Uluru, as seen in nature and travel documentaries about that part of the world.

We’ll get what we get.
This is real life, not TV.

Nature and travel documentaries about our part of the world often show fabulous drone shots: gorgeous fall colours as far as the eye can see. That’s TV: Real life is a different story. 

We get years where low spring rainfall stresses the trees and gives us faded, muddy-coloured leaves in the fall. We get years where tropical-storm remnants blowing through at the wrong moment give us great leaves: all over the ground. We get years where the leaves turn nicely and hold on relentlessly but overcast skies for two weeks give us drab vistas.

This is not one of those years. Not any one of those years.

No, this year offered no photographic excuses: What we got is wonderful. The challenge? As always, to show what it looks like.

These photos taken from the side of the road show what it looks like. Sort of.

2-photo collage of fall leaves across a harvested fieldYet somehow these photos hardly seem worth the drive. The zoom that shows the colours loses the panorama that gives the effect.

As usual, getting closer helps. This is more like it — along the lake’s edge and along the road along the lake’s edge.

2-photo collage of fall leaves along lakeshore and country roadOr this, with some dark-green conifers providing contrast.

2-photo collage of fall leaves with spruce-tree framingOr this, just the leaves and the sky.

2-photo collage of fall leaves against blue skyOr this, reflections of glory.

4-photo collage showing 2019 fall colours at White Lake ONOr this, an entire riverbank and just one branch.

2-photo collage of fall leaves along the Rideau RiverWhen you got it, flaunt it: That’s the sort of year we have this year. I expect to see drones overhead any day.


On a side note, the Smoky Mountains tourism website has put together an interactive map showing fall colours/colors across the USA by date, but it turns out that predicting the timing is complicated.

. . . the map draws on data including
precipitation and temperature forecasts,
average daylight exposure,
and soil moisture
to predict the timing of leaves’ color change across the continental United States.
–  Smithsonian Magazine
This sounds as tricky as professional golf, where moisture in the air is a factor in their late-afternoon shots.


  1. Spring rainfall is a factor new to me and will inform my expectations for future falls. We live amid such glory and this year has been satisfying, feeding us to surfeit. Even the lingering color after the last heavy rain feels more spectacular than many years. Your photos add the sapphire waters of lakes and rivers, the profound beauty that reflects the sky. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s autumn poems come to mind, especially “God’s World.”

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