The Shade of a Tree

With camera in hand I approached a tree today with the intention of taking more images than I normally would. It is so easy for me to just point the camera, focus, or let Auto-Mode take over, and snap the shutter.  But not today.  This time I let myself get lost in the process of really seeing the tree for the first time.  I was surprised at the results, and will share them here.
Going into this exercise I felt kind of silly, thinking why in the world am I doing this, and some really negative thoughts started to wreak havoc. Once we arrived at Kendrick Woods and my camera was in my hand, those thoughts went away.  Just start. That’s what we often need to do…
I found an old pine tree near the pond, and decided to start taking photos of it. I began with the traditional tree “pose”, just a simple view of the entire tree…taking from several different places. The more I did this, the more I began to notice certain features of it through the lens. This particular tree really leans toward the pond. So I took shots of the trunk, closer in, and even the gnarled roots at the base. As I was taking these I thought to myself, “oh, these root photos will be my favorite..” 
At some point my husband disappeared and left me alone, but I was unaware that he left. Turns out he was sitting at a picnic table near by, but I was so lost in the moment, caught up in what I was doing and really seeing the tree in a new way.  This was when time just seemed to stand still. I have no idea how many minutes went by, but I kept shooting.
I tried to step under the tree limbs and got as close to the trunk as I could, kind of like a kid would do if they wanted to climb up. Inside the limbs of this tree everything looked different. I saw the park from the point of view of the tree. I saw a remnant of nylon fishing line caught deep within the branches. (Remember the tree is near a pond.)  I noticed how the branches of a pine tree all come out of the same point on the limbs.  And I saw all the debris that the tree drops to the ground, the pine needles, pine cones, branches, all littering the ground below and covering some of the roots.
The best image for me is that which shows the bark. There is a place where it looks like wrinkled skin. And there are so many colors and textures to that skin/bark…shaped and changed by years of growth.  Not unlike my own skin. 
Standing within the tree I looked out toward the pond and saw the shade created by this pine tree, and knew that this was an image I needed to get. It was a warm afternoon in the sun, so being in that shade really felt good. How many people have fished in that pond while enjoying the shade of this tree?, I thought. 
Finally I stepped out from the branches and took one last shot, a traditional view of that tree, leaning, shading, branches reaching upward. Over 60 images later, I felt I had experienced my subject in ways that surprised me. What was good about this was that I took my time, let myself get lost in the creative experience.  What I didn’t enjoy about it was all the negative thoughts that filled my head prior to getting started…so I need to learn to jump through all that and get right to it. 
Choosing the best two out of over 60 images took much longer than I thought. What I started out with as my favorites did not end up being the final choices. The more I browsed through them all, the more I became aware of what moved me.  
I’ll do this exercise again, but next time I’ll try to prepare myself technically a bit more. I’m still learning a lot about how to use my camera, and I think more practice with it’s many features will be beneficial.  But I will not hesitate to do this again, no matter who is around or what the “committee” tries to say inside my head.  I learned a lot from this, and am, again, inspired by nature and all it’s beauty.

8 Replies to “The Shade of a Tree”

  1. Wonderful images — I especially like the second one, with the shade. Don't you love getting lost in the creative moment and losing track of time? For me, that's one of the best parts of photography!

    I took about 40 shots of my crepe myrtle tree this weekend, and don't like even one of them. 🙁

  2. Hello Deborah,

    This was such an inspiring post for me. I love love trees and never thought to get this close to one though and study it. My usually photos are from afar and getting the whole tree in. The leaves and branches are what draws me in. I'm so happy you enjoyed this process and really describe how you were feeling and what the tree looked like.
    I will have to try this one time and see what the tree says to me. Your photos are beautiful and the shade would be welcoming on a hot day.
    How sweet your husband was to just sit and let you enjoy the tree and giving you the time you needed.
    Thanks so much for this story.

  3. Hi Deborah – What a wonderful post about your experience. I like how you just pushed through those negative thoughts and found the great things that lie on the other side. So many times we just hear the thoughts and stop. I imagine if you look at your photos a day or a week or a month later, you might have other favorites. We "see" differently depending on the day, our mood, our current life experiences. Thank you so much for sharing this for the class!

  4. Reading your blog post has made me look at the tree very differently. I like this part about the class letting the other participants in on each others thought processes.

  5. I just love your description of the process and I can relate to what you are saying. Thank you for sharing the intimacy of your experience photographing that tree!

  6. hey deborah, i think you have summed it up perfectly here, it's when you take the time to look at something very closely that you start getting so into it and you actually loose track of time. and the subject could be just anything, it is the process that matters, it's exciting, and rewarding. if only we had more time to do this more often… i really enjoyed your post.

  7. I felt like I was with you photographing the tree! Thanks for sharing so clearly how you processed and learned the story of your subject. Beautiful post!

  8. What a wonderful experiece you had!! Amazing how many perspectives and discoveries you can find around a tree!! Love your journaling, your words flow so easily!! Beautiful post!!

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