A Tale of Two Photos

With apologies to Cole Porter, I love Asheville in the fall.

With apologies to Cole Porter’s song, I love Asheville in the fall.

When my sister and I posted fall pictures to Instagram on the same day, I was not surprised. Her New England region is famous for “fall color,” while tourists flock to my part of North Carolina to admire the flagrantly colored leaves. You can even consult a weekly Fall Color Report to find the trees at their most brilliant. As I drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, I remind myself to be patient with out-of-towners who are ambling down the road. Long-time locals like my husband call this time of year “Leaf Season.”

But it was eerie that my sister and I simultaneously posted an atypical fall picture on our respective Instagram accounts. Within three minutes of one another.

My photo was taken by a gravel sidewalk at a community center.

Sweet Gum Ball on the Sidewalk

Scattered Leaves on the Sidewalk

Hers was shot outside an urban grocery store.

Yellow Leaf

Yellow Leaf (Photo by C. M. Dennis)


My initial reaction was, “She just one-upped my Instagram picture!” (I’m sorry to say that I posted a snarky comment to that effect.) Then, I realized that: a) she must have been posting her photo at the same time; b) she would never deliberately upstage me; c) her picture wasn’t necessarily better than mine. She does have an architect’s eye, which is why I love following her on Instagram.

Not surprisingly, the two photos reflect our personalities. Too impatient to plan, I went for a wild melange of leaves, twigs, acorns, and–the crowning glory–a prickly ball from an overhanging horse-chestnut tree. Like my approach to life, my view of fall is a glorious mess.

In contrast, her photo cleverly juxtaposes the rough tree bark with smooth tile and speckled concrete. One graceful arc cuts across the vertical panels. Christie’s fall photo has the feel of a carefully composed still life. The leaf is a brave flag of yellow, buoyantly defying the civilized world.

It’s not a contest, but her picture wins. Hands down.

Unless I continue The Tale of Two Cities analogy: in that scenario, disheveled Sydney Carton ultimately triumphs over disciplined Charles Darnay. Yes, Darnay is chivalrous, but Carton gives up his life for the girl he loves. Is it cheating to cast my picture as Dickens’ noblest hero?

Regardless of who posted the better photo, I love the fleeting season of fall. Too soon, the short-lived show put on by the trees will end. Now is the time to capture these golden days–whether with camera or words.


20 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Photos

  1. Her photo is very unique and interesing and so is yours! Your photo has something unique that you saw and wanted to share with the world. I actually love it. Both photographers are equally creative. 🙂


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  4. Love your last line. Hmm — both photos are really good. I had to crank my brain around to figure her out, at first. I thought you’d failed to rotate it because the leaf looked wrong. I’m sure it’s shock effect (well, that’s a bit strong) is part of the photo’s appeal, but honestly I do prefer yours: gentler, more welcoming, less designed for effect and more for communication. Just my preference though. Your description of your sister’s photo was very interesting too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess that is a new branch trying to grow on Christie’s tree? It would be interesting to see the whole tree, but I admire her decision to focus on that one sprig.

      What’s funny is that, the day after I wrote this, I felt compelled to go out and take pictures, like a tourist. Post coming soon.


  5. Two great photos, Sandi. Lovely time of year. I lived in Cincinnati for a long time and remember how painful it was to step on those sweetgum balls. (Not sure if that’s the correct term, but that’s what my kids called them.) We have lots of horse chestnut trees in Ireland — those are the trees ‘conkers’ come from, but the nut itself is not edible (unless you’re a deer). The lovely chestnuts you roast come from the Sweet or Spanish chestnut. Sadly, we have fewer of those. Collecting ‘conkers’ is a fun and time-honoured tradition here, although you see fewer kids playing the game, which involves trying to split your opponents conker by hitting it with your own. Probably as well. Always struck me as a game with a high potential for ending in tears!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I initially thought this prickly ball was from a sweet gum tree–one grew outside my bedroom window when I was a child–but another reader, Sammy D., helped me identify the tree as a horse chestnut, or conker: probably the same conkers used in your game. I agree: sounds like someone could get hurt. Just picking up the ball was a bit painful!


  6. I really like your photo, Sandi. And your sister’s. But for different reasons. Yours is comfy and cozy and real, a shot I would have taken for all the textures and scatteredness of fall. Carolyn’s is artful, architectural–a different mood entirely. I know that feeling, though, of comparing photos or poems or whatever. I don’t usually fare well in that kind of internal conversation, so I try not to start it! It’s also really neat to have that kind of synchronicity with someone so close. It is a comforting feeling, I think, as if we’re on the same path, though maybe focused on different things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzanne, you’re right: each picture has a different kind of charm. I see that now. After I posted this, I felt anxious that people might think my sister was the sort of person who would try to out-do me–which is so far from the truth! Not only is she amazingly generous and supportive, but she is nearly 14 years younger than I am, so we’ve never competed. Before I could delete my snarky Instagram comment, she had responded with something sweet. 🙂

      I finally decided to go back and edit it (even though she assured me that she had taken no offense). So I went a little over the 400-word limit that I was trying to restrict myself. . .


  7. Trees in North and South Carolina are beautiful. That is all there is to it. Spring, summer, fall and winter. Even the pines that give off the dreaded yellow pollen are beautiful. Pity the poor person with allergies though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I could have misidentified the tree: my son and I had trouble figuring out where the “ball” had come from. It is true that the sweet gumballs I remember from my childhood were smaller than the one in the picture. I will try to get a better look at the leaves when I take him to his chess class on Wednesday. Just to be on the safe side, I am taking out the “sweet gum” part until I can check and see. That was another oddness: I took my picture on Wednesday but didn’t post it until Saturday, 3 minutes before my sister. Great minds must think alike! 🙂


      • It’s so weird- funny because while I was gathering horse chestnuts, two bloggers in the UK talked about ‘conker fights as kids” with what they called sweet chestnuts, which looked like small horse chestnuts in their photos. They said those were edible.

        Now you show up with sweet gums, looking like their photos :-). I love learning about trees, so found all of this very interesting ( I must have been a gatherer in a previous life.)

        Liked by 1 person

    • @Sammy D. You were right: I was back at the community center today and finally figured out which tree was growing the “prickly balls.” Took pictures of the leaves–definitely a horse-chestnut or conker tree http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesculus_hippocastanum . It was awkward, b/c there is also a police station at the community center, and here I was, peering through a chain-link fence at the tree, while police officers eyed me suspiciously.


      • :-). I get nervous every time I’m out snapping pictures thinking I look suspicious. Yet others take photos inside public places And of other strangers, and no one ever seems to ask questions.

        I love that name ‘conkers’! Thanks for the update!

        Liked by 1 person

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