Reality, however, was a long distance from my simplistic plan.
For starters, leaves are in constant motions, and the first few images I took were quite blurry. After fooling with the shutter speed for a bit, I came to the conclusion that it would be virtually impossible to try and predict the sudden twists and turns a leaf might take, and that an automatic setting was just as good as trying to plan this shot. I wanted top contrast the bright blue sky with a red, yellow, or brown leaf as it wafted to the ground. Easy enough, right?
I snapped dozens of pictures, achieving clarity on some half-leaves while winding up with muddled, out-of-focus images of many other leaves. Finally, on what might have been my 50th image, I was rewarded with an image that, well, did not quite suck.
I did not get all of the stem on this one, but it satisfied my desire to capture the image of a falling leaf. After I finished, my neighbor said I should have just taken a picture of a leaf still attached to a tree and then cropped it.
I would have called him a wiseguy, but his method would have achieved the same effect in 1/10 of the time, and truth be told: it is more fun to simply watch falling leaves than to get irritated trying to preserve such images for posterity.