Oak Trees - A History of Being A Focus of Landscape Photography

Why Oak Tree Scenes Make For Good Landscape Photography Prints

The Beauty of the Oak Tree

Oak trees make beautiful subjects for fine art landscape photography as they have a majestic look. Their branches and textured bark create interesting elements in a photograph. Oak Trees convey strength and resilience which makes for a stunning fine art focal point in a room. Their unique appearance and beauty make oak trees a popular subject for fine art landscape photographers.

panoramic view of an oak tree tunnel at the Wormsloe Plantation in Georgia
"Wormsloe Plantation" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of a Georgia Oak Tree Tunnel. Click on Photo to Purchase

Physical Description of Oak Trees

The mighty Oak (genus Quercus) contains about 450 species of ornamental and timber trees and shrubs in the beech family. They are found in the north temperate zone and at high altitudes in the tropics. They can have deciduous or evergreen leaves, depending on the species. The nut of the oak tree (AKA acorns) provides food for small game animals and can also be made into flour for use in cooking. Oak trees can use separated into three groups: white oaks (Leucobalanus); red and black oaks (Erythrobalamnus); and Cyclobalanus.

White Oaks (Quercus alba)

White oaks have smooth bristleless leaves and acorns. The white oak is an important timber tree in the eastern United States. It can grow to be 60 to 150 feet in height with pale-gray scaly bark. The glossy bright green leaves are about 9 inches in length and turn a dark wine-red color in the fall.

The Arizona white oak (Q. arizonica) can be found in the southwestern United States and grows to be 60 feet tall with narrow leaves. The acorns of many white oak trees germinate after they fall but are killed by the cold weather before they can take root. Squirrels take the acorns to other areas and bury them helping to spread the white oak trees to other locations.

Oak trees limbs with Azalea flowers in bloom in Charleston, South Carolina
"Azalea Splenor" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of Oak Trees and flowers. Click on Photo to Purchase

Red Oak Trees

Red Oak usually refers to two timber lines - the northern red oak and the southern red oak or Spanish oak. The northern red oak grows to 80 feet tall with dull green leaves that turn red-orange in the fall and remain until sometime in the winter.

The southern red oak is used as an ornamental tree just like the northern red oak. It has long glossy dark green leaves above and rusty/hairy below. The leaves turn orange to orange-brown in the winter. There are also other varieties of red ok including the swamp red oak, the scarlet oak, and the Texas red oak—to name just a few.

Black Oak Trees

Black Oak belongs to the red oak group and is found mostly bin the entire United States. It grows to 80 feet tall and can grow up to 140+ feet tall, depending on soil conditions. The leaves are glossy dark green above and duller/fuzzier beneath. They turn orange-crimson or down in the autumn.

Live Oak Trees (Quercus virginiana)

Live oak belongs to the beech family. Live oaks are medium-sized evergreen trees with wide-spreading branches and dark, slightly ridged bark. The leaves are simple and thick with entire and curled margins.

Live oaks get their name from the fact that they are evergreen and, when lumbered or injured, the trees send up many sprouts, which also produce sprouts if cut themselves. One of the most famous live oak trees is the Angel Oak Tree in Charleston, South Carolina. The live oak tree is considered to be the signature tree of South Carolina.

An oak tree tunnel next to a plantation entrance in Charleston, South Carolina
"Endless Oaks - A Limited Edition print of 100 of a Charleston Oak Tree Tunnel. Click on Photo to Purchase

Oak Trees in South Carolina

In South Carolina, it is estimated that there are at least 15 native oak trees. Among them are White oak, Spanish oak, swamp chestnut oak, southern red oak, northern red oak, turkey oak, laurel oak, blackjack oak, Shumard oak, water oak, willow oak, black oak, and live oak.

There are different uses for the various oak trees. For example, red oak is a popular choice for timber and wood products. Black oak is a good choice for firewood. Do you need a good shade tree? Then you might choose the Shumard oak or the white oak as it has a long life span.

Where to Photograph Oak Trees and Oak Tree Tunnels

As a fine art landscape photographer, I am always interested in capturing the beauty and majesty of trees and the oak tree is no exception. Here are a few of my favorite oak tree locations. Even if you are not a photographer, I can assure you that you would take great pleasure in viewing these stunning trees on a landscape road trip.

Yosemite Valley: the Black Oak trees and the oak groves in Yosemite Valley are included in iconic photos of the area. These magnificent trees with their acorns are an important part of the diets of the animals in the area including bears, deer, and squirrels.

Black Oak Trees covered in fresh snow at Yosemite National Park
"Covered" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of snow-covered Black Oak trees in Yosemite National Park. Click on Photo to Purchase

Botany Bay Road, South Carolina: the oak tree tunnels found on Botany Bay Road in South Caroline are mesmerizing as they lead your eye down the road. The afternoon sunlight filters through the leaves creating a dappled and soft effect. You will find in this area live oak trees as well as laurel oak, southern red oak, and blackjack oak trees.

An Oak Tree tunnel over a red dirt road at Botany Bay in Charleston, South Carolina
"Botany Bay Road" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of the oak tree tunel on Botany Bay Road. Click on Photo to Purchase

Charleston, South Carolina: it is hard to think of Charleston and not envision the moss-laden oak trees that line long wandering driveways or stand next to the remains of old buildings such as the Old Sheldon Church. Another favorite of mine is the Magnolia Plantation near Charleston.

Oak trees hanging over the Old Sheldon Church ruins in Charleston, South Carolina
"Southern Remains" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of The Old Sheldon Church in Charleston. Click on Photo to Purchase

Angel Oak Tree, Charleston, South Carolina: Perhaps one of the finest and most famous live oak trees, the Angel Oak Tree is over 500 years old. The limbs sprawl out in many directions- some touching the ground.

Angel Oak Tree panoramic view with sprawling limbs in Charleston, South Carolina
"Angel Oak Tree" - A Limited Edition print of 100 of a 500 year old oak tree. Click on Photo to Purchase

The Oak Tree and Fine Art Landscape Photography

Without a doubt, trees have a universal appeal for all of us, and for fine art photographers, the options when photographing a tree or trees are endless. There are many questions to ask: Do I photograph a single tree or a group of trees? What kind of sky do I want (bright light or dappled sunlight)? What is the best season to capture the tree’s beauty? Do I emphasize the leaves or the bark or both?

I have photographed many kinds of trees over the years and the majestic oak tree with its widely wandering branches always makes an outstanding subject for a fine art photograph. A fine art photo of oak trees gives the viewer a sense of calmness and tranquility—something we all need more of—and would make a wonderful addition to any home décor.