This week I’m back with more photos and stories about trees. The inspiration for this series came from an email I received a while back about tree photography. The author of the article offered some tips to improve success when photographing trees. Like a lot of subjects in nature, trees are endless in their diversity such as size, scale, appearance, density and location thus making them a common subject for photographers. One of the major benefits of photographing trees is that they don’t move, they are stationary, unlike animals and people thus making them easier to photograph and get a good photo. In fact, one could take photos of the same tree at different times of the year over a period of time and make it a project. A few years ago, an area freelance photographer, Mark Hirsch, took a daily photo of the same lone Bur Oak tree for a year, most with his iPhone. He drove by that tree about a mile from his home everyday for nineteen years before taking his first photograph. The result of this year-long project was a 192 page book titled “That Tree,” several exhibits and numerous interviews by local, national and international media outlets. His dedicated a year studying this tree from different angles and in different light, most of us don’t have that kind of patience and drive but serves as an example of how something so simple as photographing a tree (or anything else for that matter) can turn into a personally satisfying venture.
Now back to the article. The first suggestion made by the author to get better photographing trees is to, well, take more photographs of trees! Then evaluate the results and determine what improvements to make for better results. Like most things in life better photography takes study and practice, lots of it! Most professional and hobbyist photographers I know continue to learn, attend workshops, and get feedback on their work. Looking back over the past 20 years or so, one way I got better at photography wasn’t by buying the latest camera or gadget, it was by putting my work out into the public for review and critique. The first time a couple of my photos were in an exhibit, I was scared as hell that my work wouldn’t stand up in quality to the other photographers. Much to my satisfaction, my photos did compare favorably and gave me the confidence to continue to develop my photographic skills. This started me on a journey of exhibiting in both group and solo shows, selling a few photos here and there, and to this blog where I’ve shared thousands of my photos over the last three plus years.
The author goes on to suggest that photographers experiment when photographing trees. While many of us see a tree or grouping of trees from a distance then take that first photo of the whole tree, why not move in for a closer look? The following photos are examples of that process, moving from the group to the whole tree to the parts of a tree.
Moving in even closer, we can capture some of the intimate details of trees that attract our attention. Does anyone else see the face of a person or animal in the second photo? Doesn’t nature give us some interesting things to ponder and photograph? If only we look for them!
A few years ago when we were traveling on our West Coast Swing, we made a visit to the Redwoods National and State Parks in northwest California not far from the Pacific coastline. These parks preserve the tallest tree species and longest living organism in the world! The Redwood trees can grow to be well over 350 feet tall and some are documented to be over 2000 years old. That’s big and that’s old! During our visit and hikes through these majestic groves of old growth trees, we often stood in awe of the size and scale of these plants. My traveling partner took the top photo of me standing under one of these magnificent trees taking a photo with my iPhone.
This was the photo I took during that shoot.
And here’s a photo that gives you somewhat of an idea how big these are in comparison with us humans. I’m guessing when that tree toppled over, it was loud! Remember the old philosophical question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Look it up and you decide! I’m going with yes!
The author also suggest taking photos at different times of the day and year. I especially am attracted to trees when they show their brightest colors, the fall of the year. Here are a couple of examples. The bottom photo also includes the lines that the sun creates when it’s setting over the river in the background.
Here’s another example of the interesting late afternoon shadows cast by a grove of trees after they’ve lost their leaves.
Sometimes we isolate a lone tree that captures our attention much like these taken in a variety of locations. The tree in White Sands was still hanging onto it’s leaves even though it was late January. These trees are hardy, surviving the blasting by the gypsum particles or getting buried by the constantly drifting dunes. Fortunately, it’s not far to moisture as the water table is just below the surface.
Sometimes we find trees planted in neat rows like these cherry trees in Door County.
Or we find them in the shadow of larger trees, yet making their own statement against the wall of a man-made object.
Or we find the remains of a fallen tree that breaks the pattern of the sand just below the surface of the water.
Or we find them still standing attempting to hang on to life and leaf out for one more season.
Or we find them with other organisms trying to build a relationship either by freeloading or be hosted by another living thing.
Or sometimes trees or parts of them serve as frames for other images.
The last suggestion from the author is get out into the natural world and shoot some photos. A point well taken, I’ll end there for this week and head out to make some more images of trees. More to come.
Until next week, happy travels everyone!