My two favorite trees are vine maple and whitebark pine - vine maple for the delicate lacy texture it exhibits when backlit in dark woods, and whitebark pine for its rugged sweeping skeletons. This summer I focused on photographing whitebark pine on Mt. Hood in Oregon. As you go up in elevation, when you reach treeline at about 6,000 feet, whitebark pine appears and is the last tree standing. Heavy snow loads and high winter winds force it to grow matted and bowed over low to the ground.
Unfortunately the tree is endangered across the American west and is slowly dying due to pine beetles and blister rust. Ironically it is only in death, when the tree has shed its needles, that the stark beauty of its sinuous twisting limbs is revealed. These matted skeletons are a challenge for me to photograph, simply because the texture is so complex. Simplicity in design is hard to come by.
Here are four different attempts…
#1 has no strong composition, but I like the way the tangled mat supports Mt. Hood, which is illuminated by the last of the evening light. This mass of tangled limbs is very characteristic of this tree.
#2 I think fails in the composition area, but I so liked the lighted chandelier effect it exhibits that I decided it is a keeper for now. The lighting is all natural, being direct light from the setting sun. When I came up on it right at sunset it positively glowed in real life. I was enthralled. I desaturated the reds and oranges in this light to simplify the color palette.
#3 is my attempt to make something gracious and soft out of a tree that is characteristically wild and rugged. I chose to show just a small curvaceous portion of a tree, with softly lighted hills in the background. This is fire season so all hills are now “softly lighted”.
#4 is my favorite and here I had some fun. I framed Mt. Hood with the wildest looking pair of limbs I could find. To me this most characterizes the tree and this mountain – wild and forever untamed. The design is obviously contrived, with liberal use of filters to darken the surrounding. Any suggestions on how to make it appear less so, and still keep the basic design, would be welcome.
So there are my trees. I welcome criticism of all kinds. Beat me up.