Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrating the Tree: a photo-essay

Trees are what give personality to the landscape.  They add form, color and interest, and are appealing on many levels.  I find them similar to people in this regard, and just as I find a portrait of an individual person a far more compelling image than a crowd of people, so it is with trees.  Here in New England, trees are densely packed, like crowds of people, and cover the entire landscape except where their presence and location have been manipulated by man.  It's one of the things I've never gotten used to living here; the trees are everywhere and feel monotonous, smothering and induce a sense of claustrophobia in someone like myself who loves open space and big skies.  There is a loss of identity and uniqueness of the trees in these endless deciduous forests.

This post isn't about those kinds of trees.

During my time in AZ, on the various hikes and drives I went on, I was forever drawn to the arresting shapes of individual trees, often dead or in winter dormancy.  Whereas an entire forest of deciduous trees in winter, devoid of leaves, I find bleak and depressing, a single tree shows off its individuality and personality in this manner.  The unique forms of the trunk and branches, along with the color and texture of the bark and/or leaf foliage, are compelling, especially when combined with the elements of sky and land.

Here is a collection of images, taken over a period of 2 months, and in different locations, that focus on the form of the tree.  In all cases, I've adjusted the photo via various PP manipulations, to bring out the features.  The images span the range of genre - still life, landscape and abstract.

Tree Against Sky #1
The stark, curved branches of this dead tree reach up to a cloudless, sepia-toned sky along the Crest Trail in the Huachucas in mid-March.

Solo Tree with Clouds #1
The curving silhouette of this dead tree, located on the hillside of the Mule Mtns., contrasts with the direction of the clouds on this afternoon in early February in this black-and-white image.

Along FSR 62
This majestic scrub oak, a characteristic member of the chaparral biotic zone, welcomes drivers along the road east of the Santa Rita Mountains in this sepia-toned photo.  March '10.

Solo Tree with Clouds #2
Bands of horizontal clouds add a dynamic element to the vertical reaching branches of this tree, seen along the Deer Creek trail in the Mazatzal Mtns in this black-and-white photo.  February '10.

Tree Against Sky #2
The twisted branches of this tree, also seen along the Crest trail hike, seem to be gesturing towards the heavens.  An antiquing filter was applied to produce this selectively colored and desaturated effect.

This AZ sycamore, located along a creek on the Mogollon Rim north of Payson, shows off its unusually colored and textured bark.  Mid-February.

Stirrings of Spring
This towering Fremont cottonwood, located along the Murray Springs/Clovis site trail in the San Pedro River Valley east of Sierra Vista, shows the first hint of the brilliant green foliage on its way in early March.


  1. Magnificent. My favorite is the Solo one where the tree is "going a different direction" than the clouds.

  2. Thanks, Jala! Turning that into a b/w image totally transformed it; it's one of my favorites of the group as well. I have a deep affection for these trees; seeing the cottonwoods and scrub oaks while back in AZ was like being around old friends. I cannot wait to surround myself in aspen forests when we are in CO!

  3. The sepia toned photo stands!


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