Preserving fall’s treasures: the unique fusion of leaves and Polaroids

As summer gives way to fall, it’s easy to ponder whether we made the most of the season. However, instead of dwelling on missed opportunities, we can appreciate what we did experience, often with the assistance of the hundreds of digital photos we capture (a special thanks to Mike for highlighting this perspective).

Here’s a collage of the 1,881 photos I took this summer:

The versatility and elusive nature of digital photos

The beauty of digital photos lies in their versatility. They can effortlessly be duplicated and shared across various platforms, not merely confined to our smartphones. They find their way onto our laptops and digital photo frames and are readily shareable with friends through platforms like Google Photos, Facebook, and Instagram.

Despite their omnipresence in the digital realm, these photos often elude our memory, failing to leave a lasting imprint compared to photographs from the pre-digital era. In my case, these images often remain trapped within the confines of our hard drives, yearning to be transformed into physical photo albums.

Perhaps the sheer volume of thousands of photos overwhelms our attempts to distill them into a select few for printing. Could we please have a photo album capable of holding 2000 photos from one year?

Another factor contributing to the fleeting nature of digital photos is the delayed physical manifestation. When was the last time you printed digital photos? Sometimes, I’ll make prints for family several times a year. That means the photos sit around for half a year until they are printed.

The timeless appeal of film photography

Ironically, that period was shorter in the film era. Once you finished a roll, you’d get it developed immediately because you wanted to see how your photos turned out. Remember, you couldn’t see the image as soon as you captured it. Once that roll was done, you hoped to get the prints as soon as possible. Thus, you had a tangible print in hand sooner. Creating a profound connection with our memory—a tactile experience that resonated deeply.

Consider the Polaroid camera. You got a real photo print within two minutes! Those are some of the photos I remember best. The ones shot with a Polaroid. Those are the prints that got pinned up on the wall. That hung around sitting on tables.

Fall’s tangible treasures: pressed leaves and stories

Speaking of tangible experiences, let’s circle back to the fall time approaching. One of the delights of fall is collecting leaves during a leisurely stroll. When you get home, write a little explanation of where you found the leaf and who was there. Then, slip that card with the leaf into a book.

Honestly, I haven’t really pulled out any of the leaves or cards from the random books. Kinda like the digital photos, the pressed leaves remain tucked away.

Perhaps dedicating a specific book solely for leaf pressing and eventually transferring them into an album could rekindle the joy of this tradition.

Even if you don’t pull out the leaves, you still have the memory. The act of picking up a leaf, feeling its texture, and crafting a mini-story around it is where the true joy and lasting memories reside.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Pressing Leaves with Stories,” outlining seven helpful tips for leaf pressing:

  1. Use an envelope to store the leaf
  2. Write the date on the envelope
  3. Add a caption to the envelope.
  4. Consistently use the same book for leaf pressing.
  5. Best envelopes to use for leaf pressing are 5×7
  6. Capture a photograph of the leaf in its original setting.
  7. Photograph the leaf alongside the hand-written envelope.

For a detailed explanation of each tip, please read the full blog post.

Within that blog post, you’ll find a couple of photos featuring leaves and my daughters from when we found them—images that evoke cherished memories.

My next endeavor involves purchasing an instant film camera and clear float frames. I plan to encase each leaf in a clear float frame along with a Polaroid print, and perhaps a slip of paper narrating a brief story about the leaf’s discovery.

These framed mementos will find a place on my desk, ensuring that these memories stay vivid and close at hand for years to come.

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Tom Saaristo
8 months ago

J’adore that picture of Evelyn! What a sweetheart engaged with nature!

Leigh Hanlon
8 months ago

As usual, a wonderfully creative post! Have you seen the new Polaroid i-2 camera? Much as I like my vintage-retrofitted SX-70, this all-new one is pretty nifty — and tempting. Unfortunately, it’s not an SLR. Also, unfortunately, Polaroid’s B-team made font decisions. The font used in much of the promotional material online makes it unclear whether the camera’s name is “1-2,” “l-2,” or “i-2,” if it needs a hyphen, or if the initial character is uppercase. Still, the camera is interesting for its manual controls.

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