Macro Time Lapse: University Student Features the Color Changing Process of Leaves

Mornings as of late here in the Colorado high country are feeling a little more crisp and cool. New snow even appeared at the top of one of the ski areas the other day! And while I’m far from being ready for winter (we had a very late winter this year), I can’t help but get excited for the changing aspen leaf colors the fall chill brings. 

While the aspens are beautiful, nothing beats the fall colors from back home in Illinois. There, the leaves of deciduous trees undergo a dramatic color change before fading to brown and dying. The process can take weeks, but Owen Reiser, a mathematics and biology student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, wanted to see the leaves change in a matter of seconds. “I was taking a field biology class and we were learning about deciduous trees,” he says. “I’ve been getting into wildlife photography and time lapse for a while, and I couldn’t find a time lapse of leaves changing color, so I just went for it.”

Reiser took more than 6,000 close-ups of leaves over the course of six weeks in a homemade time-lapse studio. This simple yet efficient studio included a macro lens and a camera purchased on eBay, a LED light, and an extra battery. “It’s [basically] a cardboard box and a bunch of duct tape, but it gets the job done,” he says. 

Reiser gathered leaves from eight different deciduous trees, species such as sassafras and sugar maple that shed their foliage annually, and took a photograph of each one every 30 to 60 seconds for up to three days. Stitching these images together, he revealed a scene of changing leaves that’s far more alive than a typical autumn snapshot. In the time-lapse video, color seeps through each leaf like dye spreading through fabric, revealing the dynamic inner workings of the plants as they transform.

Time lapse videos from our customers that highlight nature’s processes—likechanging of the seasons,ice shelf melt, andplant decay—are some of my favorite videos. And I love the creativity Reiser brought to his project, showing one of the most beautiful processes on a macro level. He may not have used our products to shoot this video, but he embodied in his work what we strive to do every day: bring the viewers closer to the source.

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