In a landscape of trees the positions of the leaves themselves don’t really matter. Whether there are any leaves or not is important, as it sets the time of year and the shape of the figures, but the importance of the individual leaves themselves are lost in a flood of details to look at.
In a photograph of a leaf on an empty sidewalk, a photograph of nothing, the position of that leaf is critical. The orientation of the leaf itself, its position in the frame, its relationship to any texture on the ground, all become vital. Add in a tiny speck – a spot of gum on the pavement, perhaps – and it becomes a completely different image.
When there’s nothing to see, when a photograph is mostly silence, those few notes that are struck become vitally important.