Be like a tree.
Connect with your roots.
Turn over a new leaf.
Bend before you break.
Enjoy your unique natural beauty.
I love trees, in particular I love to enjoy their majesty as they stretch skywards, witness their dark silhouettes against the evening sky, marvel at their changing form as seasons change around them or listen to the soft rustle of their leaves swaying in a summer breeze. I love their individuality, their strength and their diversity.
Many people remember a favourite tree from childhood. My favourite was a tall oak which provided a perfect hiding place for secret childhood meetings and which even had its own swing – a branch which we children grabbed ‘Tarzan-like’ and used to propel ourselves across a small pond.
At the time I wasn’t aware of the unique and important role that trees play in our human existence, and indeed the role they have played in the history of mankind. An awareness of the real significance of trees as habitats and life givers was brought home to me years later when a drive to ‘develop' land saw the felling of hundreds of native trees in my local area, including my beloved oak. I think this action was the beginning of my desire to support tree life in all its various forms and while I may not exactly consider myself to be a ‘tree hugger’ I have taken an interest, throughout my career, in raising awareness of the importance of protecting our trees. I have regularly taken groups of students to study and support biodiversity in an effort to understand the importance of trees in our world ecosystem, and have encouraged tree planting and care of the trees around us. To read that eighty per cent of the Koala habitat has been destroyed in the recent Australian Bushfires brings home very clearly once more how important trees are to the survival of our planet.
Tree Planting Day 2020
It is heart-warming to know that groups of concerned volunteers are gathering in different places this weekend as part of tree planting day (Feb 15), when hundreds of native Irish tree species will be planted in an effort to rebuild our stock of native trees and thereby restore a valuable aspect of our biodiversity. Far from being a hindrance to making land more productive, the growing of native trees can support soil improvement, provide shelter for animals and become a thriving habitat for many living creatures as well as supplying an important part of the food chain. Below are just two links to events happening on the day.
Although it is far from their main purpose, trees do make great photography subjects. They look good singly or in groups, they evoke the mood of a particular season and they lend themselves to being shot from different perspectives, happy to allow their trunk, their branches or their leaves to tell their story and reveal their essence. After all, when taking a portrait of a person we don’t always take the whole person; sometimes we focus on the upper body or sometimes the face and it is the same with a tree.
“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.” ― unknown
Whenever I walk in a wooded area I just have to take another tree image even though I may have dozens of such images already. They just seem to call out to have their portrait taken!
However, a National Geographic article warns: “Trees are willing subjects but don’t be fooled - to create a compelling photograph you need to take time to get to know them”.
I feel lucky to live in a country that has beautiful native trees plus many imported species that add their own particular beauty to our landscape. As subjects for photography they provide an unending source of inspiration, yet as I begin to photograph more trees I realise that it is not as easy as it might appear to get a good photograph that does justice to my subjects. One photography writer talks of seeing trees as characters in a play, with one being the leading actor while the others play supporting roles or act as interesting props. Thinking of trees in this way can improve the composition of the image as it encourages us to think carefully about the scene rather than just snapping randomly. When we decide which tree is the leading actor we place that tree centre stage with the other trees placed around it. Other supporting actors can be shadows or sunlight coming through the branches.
Sometimes trees can be used to frame another subject or to 'shoot through'.
They make great subjects for reflection photographs
Sometimes we might want to draw attention to certain features of a tree
Light and the way it hits the tree is also an important consideration
And of course tree silhouettes can really reveal the majesty of trees
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” ― Chinese proverb