Today, we’re taking a little break from the travel-themed images I’ve been posting of late, and return to nature somewhat. I’ve always found something compelling about trees; I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s some deep-rooted part of our subconscious that calls for an occasional visual break from the uniformly geometric concrete we live in, and an embracing of the naturally fractal and chaotic world for a change instead. Judging from the feedback on previous images and photoessays, I’ve also found this to be the case with a lot of other people, too.
Regardless, I’ve also found these subjects to be amongst the most challenging to focus. Firstly, there’s scale: you can’t move or reposition them, and your angles of view are usually quite limited. Then there’s light; it has to be from the right direction to give the surface of the crown/ leaves/ trunks/ branches definition and texture, but not too directional and harsh otherwise the extremely high frequency detail tends to make the image break up at the micro level and lose midtone richness. Compounding things further, there’s context: though you often need some of it to have a sense of scale, some of the more compelling images I’ve seen and photographed are completely lacking in this.
Finally, I’d like to address the question of colour (or not, as the case may be): it’s often very difficult to get the colour of a stand of trees right; by right I don’t necessarily mean accurate. The perceived colour is usually a lot stronger than the actual colour, and quite different depending on the time of day; I also strongly believe that a lot of the tonal subtlety is both out of gamut for the cameras as well as the display media – be it digital or print. Part of this is down to colour space restrictions, and part of this is down to the fact that plants naturally reflect light in the UV and IR spectra specifically to attract birds and animals to promote pollination.
This brings us to the use of black and white: with the right light, I feel that monochrome gives the subjects the right sense of gravitas and timelessness. It isn’t at all accurate, but that’s not the point: other than commercial product photography – which is almost all uniformly retouched up the wazoo anyway and composite-lit to the point the products can never physically appear that way in reality – all images are about perception and impression anyway; photography is a conversation between the photographer and the audience. The audience is almost always a willing participant – especially my audience here: you want to believe your eyes and be transported away somewhere.
Anyway, I digress: there are far too many words here for a photoessay. Enjoy the images; they were shot with a huge variety of media and formats; film, digital, large, small, iPhone, the lot. Trees can be enjoyed at any time, regardless of what you might happen to be carrying with you at the time… MT
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