Saturday, September 07, 2019


I have always  been fascinated with trees -- their form, the shadows that result from them, and the fantastic moods that they can create, along with whatever weather is impacting them. Of course, as we now head towards autumn later this month -- the autumnal equinox, many trees are starting to exhibit that change towards the fall colors that we so love to see.   I grew up in the Adirondacks of New York, and even as a child, I loved the big sugar maples along our driveway blazing forth with brilliant oranges and reds.  In the northeast, fall was a glorious time of year with crisp mornings and slightly warm afternoons, until heavy frosts took their toll and the leaves dropped like snowflakes.  When my wife and I moved to Michigan in 1981, fall color was a bit of a disappointment in the lower part of the state, as the predominant oak-hickory forest was more subtle in its colors.  One really needs to travel north in Michigan to see the wonderful climax of color that's found in aspen-birch-maple forests.  Now, we are living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and this will be our first fall and winter in the South.  I know that we will get some good color here in late October, and I look forward to shooting it and traveling around the nearby Appalachians.

"A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart." -- Hal Borland

However, trees are more than just color. Think of the myriad of forms and the different times of the year that a deciduous tree can look so different, and the arrangement of branches makes a species identifiable in the field.  When I was a forestry student, we had to identify at least 75 species of trees and shrubs by their leaves, fruit, buds, bark, etc., and of course also know their Latin names.  That course was a lot of fun, and also quite challenging.  I have never regretted any of those hands-on field classes in botany and zoology. All have been a part of my world since, and while I may not always know what a plant or an insect is, I know how to find out.   My point is, that you have two eyes, yet many people don't know how to look.  As a photographer, you should be seeing more than just the forest -- you also need to pick out the trees.  Seeing and understanding what you are seeing makes for a better image.  Deciphering the scene before you press the shutter button can result in a more  meaningful image.  I'm not saying I do that all the time, but when I do, I know that I am more in control of the final result on film or the sensor.

Sometimes, the shapes of the trees just resonate with me, and it's just using my intuition and imagination that propels me through the creative process.  I immerse myself in the little world of that place and time, and sometimes, I come away with some great images.  But it's not all about the image -- being in the woods -- in the moment -- with nature, is a refreshing connection with the earth.  I always felt some connection, and it's taken me years to appreciate just how essential that connection is to well-being and to creativity.

"To really feel a forest canopy one must use different senses, and often the most useful one is the sense of imagination." -- Joan Maloof 

Lately, I have been more captivated with trees and their shapes, and here in North Carolina, the trees in the mountains can exhibit some fantastic shapes.  I hope to get a portfolio together in the next year or two and see where that obsession goes.

"I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree." -- Georgia O'Keeffe

Here is a small selection of my images that showcase trees.  I hope that you enjoy them.

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