Nature puts on a show during autumn that's unmatched by other seasons. Frequent showers saturate tones and gentle winds conduct a rhythmic flow, while fog and mist provide stark canvases of white and grey to contrast with the pops of colour from the changing autumn leaves.
"Autumn is the season that stimulates the senses the most. It makes you contemplate life," says Netherlands-based nature and landscape photographer Theo Bosboom. "But while it's a charming season, it's very difficult to create something that hasn't been seen before." In his Autumn Leaves series, Theo wanted to find a new way to highlight the best of the season.
Theo is a regular contributor to National Geographic and BBC Wildlife magazine and has twice won the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. After returning to the valley of the Hoëgne in Belgium year upon year, he felt he had captured everything the forests had to offer.
"It's very picturesque and just magical in autumn, but after a couple of years I realised I'd photographed it from every angle," he says. "I started wondering, 'Is that it?' Just then some leaves fell into a stream and I watched as they were carried away on the water, tumbling under the little waterfalls and getting stuck behind branches and rocks. That's when the idea came to me of photographing the leaves from under the water, in a way that perhaps a fish sees autumn."
While the idea for The Journey of the Autumn Leaves may have seemed simple enough, bringing it to life would be far from simple. "At that point photography was still just a hobby for me," he explains, but he got hold of a Canon WP-DC28 waterproof case for his compact Canon PowerShot G10. Changing into rubber boots and a wetsuit, he waded into the cold stream, held the camera in its waterproof case under the water and pointed it skywards.
"I couldn't really see what I was doing, but every time a leaf passed by I pushed the button and hoped for the best," he continues. "The majority of the pictures were pretty bad and I took countless accidental selfies, but one really nice shot stood out [see below]. It made me realise this could be a project, and that's when I decided to invest in the underwater housing for my Canon EOS 5D Mark III [now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV]."
Over the autumns that followed, Theo swiftly moved from amateur to professional, eventually giving up his day job as a lawyer in 2013. He developed his underwater shooting techniques, preferring to use natural light where possible, which, in contrast with landscape photography lore, meant that the best shooting time was in the middle of the day.
"When the sun was at its peak the rivers received the maximum amount of light, so I rarely had to rely on flash, unless the water was very murky or I wanted to illuminate an interesting corner," he says. "I needed to boost the ISO to capture strong images in the river, because I needed the extra light underwater. Thankfully raising the ISO on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III didn’t affect the quality."