Tom Leighton Captures the Amazing Complexities of Plants After Dark

Embodied in all of his images, whether the source is urban architecture or the structures of nature, these plant pictures are a sense of wonder.

By: THURSD. | 02-05-2022 | 5 min read
Floral Art Photography
Fluorescent plant by Tom Leighton header

Tom Leighton is a self-taught photographer based in the United Kingdom who specializes in capturing the beauty of nature and the environment through his lens. His work primarily focuses on botanical specimens, including leaves, flowers, stems, and seedpods, and often features close-up shots that highlight the intricate details and textures of his subjects.

Tom Leighton Reveals the Nightlife of Foliage in His Variegation Series

Tom Leighton's 'Variegation' series is a breathtaking collection of photographs that captures the intricate and subtle beauty of nature. Leighton focuses on plants from Cornwall, some of which he grows in his garden and others farther afield—and examines what humans might have been able to see if our night vision had evolved. The photographs feature a range of botanical specimens, from leaves and flowers to stems and seedpods, and are characterized by their striking use of color and texture.


Tom Leighton photographs night plant life


At first glance, the images in the series appear almost abstract, with their bold swathes of color and intricate patterns. But upon closer inspection, one can see the exquisite detail and precision with which Leighton has captured each plant. From the delicate veins of a leaf to the velvety texture of a flower petal, each element is rendered in stunning clarity, highlighting the unique details of each species.

In many ways, the 'Variegation' series can be seen as a meditation on the beauty of imperfection. The plants that Leighton photographs are not pristine specimens, but rather are marked by the wear and tear of life. They are packed with insect bites and scars, and their leaves are often marked with spots or discolorations. But far from detracting from their beauty, these imperfections only serve to highlight their uniqueness and individuality.


Fluorescent green leaves at night


Tom Leighton Uses Colors to Create Depth

One of the most striking aspects of the 'Variegation' series is the way in which Leighton has used color to create a sense of depth and dimensionality in his images. The photographs feature a rich palette of greens, blues, pinks, and purples, which are layered and blended together to create a sense of movement and deepness. In some images, the colors appear almost painterly, with broad strokes of pigment giving way to finer details and textures.


Tom Leighton uses colors to create depth


Leighton's use of lighting is another defining characteristic of the 'Variegation' series. Many of the images feature a soft, diffused light that seems to emanate from within the plants themselves, lending them a luminous quality. This effect is particularly striking in the images that feature translucent leaves or petals, which seem to glow from within.


Tom Leighton photographer quote on Thursd


Leighton's series is a testament to his skill as a photographer and his deep appreciation for the natural world. Through his lens, we are able to see the beauty and complexity of plant life in a new and profound way and appreciate the richness and diversity of the natural world around us.


Multiple leaves under fluorescent lighting


What Is the Variegation Series and the Inspiration Behind the Pictures?

The 'Variegation' series takes inspiration from the nocturnal activity of plants, offering a glimpse into what we might observe if our night vision had developed to a greater extent. As the sun sets, the process of photosynthesis ceases, and respiration takes over. Plants begin to utilize their stored sugars, while also consuming some of the oxygen they produce during the day. In the darkness, growth persists, with the plant regulating the rate at which it burns through its fuel reserves.


Closeup of Tom Leighton plant photogrpahy


The colors featured in this series reflect the light that has been absorbed by the plant's structure, as well as the energy that is generated through this process. The title 'Variegation' alludes to the diverse colors present in a plant's leaves or stems, which are indicative of varying levels of chlorophyll and have a direct impact on the plant's capacity to gather and burn energy.


Colorful leaf detail by Tom Leighton


Photograph Design in Nature

In a world that often values perfection and uniformity above all else, Leighton's 'Variegation' series is a reminder of the beauty and importance of diversity. Each plant in the series is a testament to the richness and complexity of the natural world, and a celebration of the intricate patterns and colors that can be found in even the most humble of specimens. They inspire us to look more closely at the world around us and to appreciate the subtle and intricate beauty that can be found in even the most unexpected places.


Beautiful plant variation at night


More recently, Tom Leighton has turned very specifically to design in nature - and the invitation here might be to contrast the power inherent in the construction, with a sense of its fragility and impermanence. Again his observation is careful and questioning. He enhances, manipulates, and abstracts, focusing people's attention on the intricacy of a leaf, the layering of feathers in flight, or the implied volcanic force that has created a tower of rock at the edge of the sea. This work, like his cityscapes, is beautiful and surprising, and, like them, carries a mark of the surreal.


Tom Leighton neon lupine flowers


More About Tom Leighton

So who is Tom Leighton, the photographer behind these stunning images? Leighton is a self-taught photographer based in the United Kingdom, whose work focuses primarily on nature and the environment. His photographs have been exhibited in galleries around the world and have garnered numerous awards and accolades.


Tom Leighton photographer
Tom Leighton


In an interview with The Creator's Project, Leighton spoke about his creative process and his fascination with the natural world. He shares:

"I've always been drawn to the intricacy and beauty of the natural world. I find it endlessly fascinating, and I love the challenge of trying to capture its essence in my photographs."

Embodied in all of his images, whether the source is urban architecture or the structures of nature, is a sense of wonder. At once futuristic and reflective, Leighton’s work demands multiple takes.


You can discover more of the Variegation series and enjoy photographic art on Tom Leighton's website.


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