my process for making art

I create abstract photographs from fallen leaves, ice, shells, and other small details of nature. I think of leaves as the haiku of nature: a simple, predictable form that can inspire thoughts of incredible and unexpected depth. I spend hours, days, or even weeks working with each leaf, slowly deciphering the ideas locked within. My art isn't about the leaves themselves — they are raw material I shape with my camera into dreamlike abstractions of depth and texture. By combining a translucent palette with a precise use of detail, I give my photographs the emotional immediacy of a painting. From these familiar elements, I create art that is light, fluid, and filled with life.

This is where my art begins.
My art begins from the very familiar — fallen leaves, broken sticks, melting ice, weathered bark, and old shells.

step 1. exploration

I make my art from the fallen leaves, sticks, and seeds (called "litterfall") that I find everywhere around my suburban home. Whenever I am walking the dog or waiting for the kids' school bus, I am constantly picking up interesting leaves I find in my path.

step 2. inspiration

I am not looking for picture-perfect leaves, but ones with some character. Most leaves I pick up get immediately dropped back down to the ground, but some are worth more thought. I hold on to these as I continue walking, twirling them in my fingers and getting a sense of their personality. A rare few make it all the way back home to my studio.

step 3. observation

Back in my studio I keep a constantly changing collection of leaves, stashed in boxes and sorted on tables. I slowly work my way through this collection, taking my time to consider each piece more carefully. I'm looking to see if the potential I originally noticed is still there. Some leaves I save for years before working with them, while others get "recycled" back to the outdoors almost immediately.

Daniel Sroka at work in his studio

step 4. creation

When one leaf grabs my interest so much I can't put it down, I begin to photograph it. I'll spend hours, days, or sometimes even months working with a single leaf. I built a custom workspace — part homemade, part recycled, and part high-tech — that combines creative freedom with precise control. This allows me to explore the leaf from every possible perspective, as slowly and carefully as I need.

step 5. completion

Like a sculptor unlocking the hidden potential of a stone, I use my camera to shape this raw material into compositions of dimension, texture, and motion. I work until I no longer see just a leaf, but discover something compelling beneath the surface. Even after almost 20 years of creating these natural abstracts, I am still in awe of the creative potential of a humble leaf.