Considing the Features of Trees in Photography
Do trees hold a special place in your heart? Have you ever wished you could capture the beauty and majesty of a tree in a photograph?
Perhaps the most famous quote about trees is from Joyce Kilmer’s poem, Trees, which begins with “I think I shall never see… A poem as lovely as a tree” and fittingly ends with “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” I am not a poet as Kilmer was but I certainly agree with his awe and love of trees.
Trees are interesting and fun to photograph as there are so many components to consider: framing, perspective, and balance. My Tree Fine Art Landscape Gallery showcases some of my beautiful fine art tree photography.
What does a fine art photographer look for when deciding to photograph a tree or a forest? Here are my Top Three Tips and questions to consider when taking tree photos as well as thoughts for you, the purchaser, to consider.
1. What Kind of Tree Makes the Best Fine Art Tree Photograph?
That is certainly a question beginner and expert photographers consider. The answer is: it is not the tree itself that makes the photograph worthy of becoming a fine art print, but it is the surrounding landscape elements in relation to the tree that creates a unique and special photograph. Does the tree (or trees) convey a sense of strength or majesty or mystery? Does it touch you emotionally in some way?
For example, the two tree photos below could not be more different… the first being a Florida Coconut Palm Tree. Coconut palms are found in tropical coastal areas nearly worldwide. They have a slender ringed trunk and are topped by a crown of feather-like leaves. The Coconut Palm photo found in my Florida Keys Landscape Gallery captures the tropical feel of the palm trees as they stand proudly in the sand. I find myself wanting to go sit on the bench and take in the view.
Compare that photo with the one below of a row of Southern Live Oak trees from my South Carolina Landscape Gallery. This landscape photograph was taken at Botany Bay outside Charleston. The Live Oak photograph could not be more different than the Coconut Palm Tree photo.
The Live Oak often grows to a height of 50 feet… shorter than the Coconut Palm but it is more massive. Notice the trunk – it is divided near the ground and the limbs grow horizontally to the trunk. Instead of standing tall and proud these graceful but massive trees “bend” to form a tunnel effect. Yet, just as with the Coconut Palm photograph, I find myself drawn into the photo…. I want to walk through the tunnel of trees and sit on one of the benches at the far end of the photograph.
As you view fine art photographs and are assessing them, you should start noticing the photographer’s style as well as ask yourself what kind of fine art print are you attracted to. What landscape elements are important and resonate with you? Do you prefer fine art photographs that draw you into them? Or do you prefer landscapes that you view “from a distance”.
2. How to Take the Best Picture of a Single (Solitary) Tree
When taking photographs of a tree standing alone and by itself, the photographer is looking to create a fine art print that captures the eye and wants to emphasize the aloneness of the tree. You may be surprised to find the most important evaluation of the landscape scene does not center totally around the tree itself but, just as above, the photographer is evaluating how the other landscape elements “frame” the tree… what is happening to make the tree stand out? How do the photographic techniques of balance and perspective play into the landscape scene?
This photograph from my Utah Landscape Gallery is of a yellow Cottonwood tree at the Capitol Reef National Park. The leaves turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. What makes this photograph work is the contrast between the brilliant yellow leaves and the red rock wall behind it. The picture is softened by the green shrubs in the front. The vertical and horizontal lines of the red rock only emphasize the leaves. Your eye stays focused on the tree while taking in the rest of the landscape.
The next fine art tree photograph, Still Standing (from my Florida Keys Landscape Gallery), is totally different from the one above. There is not much color and the tree is barren. The background is not red rocks but a stormy sunrise sky. It is obvious if the tree could talk, then it would have a story to tell…. it has been through hurricanes and struggles but was still standing. It is the simplicity and starkness of this photograph that catches your eye.
Unlike the two above, my photograph of a solitary dogwood captures a dogwood tree blooming while surrounded by other trees but it still stands out. Dogwood trees make beautiful subjects for fine art tree photography. The small white flowers are dainty and contrast with the greens of a forest setting.
I have spent hours driving up and down the roads of the Smoky Mountain National Park looking for hidden dogwoods. I also used two other photographic techniques: using a long lens with a shallow depth of field to blur the background. This allows the blooms of the tree to be front and center …. to be emphasized. My Smoky Mountains Landscape Photograph Gallery is one of my favorites due in part to the many dogwood fine art photographs included in the gallery.
So, how do you create a fine art photograph of a single tree? It involves a lot of time looking to find a tree that captures your eye and to make certain the landscape background is one that would “frame” the tree in a manner that would make the tree come alive. But it is very important that all the elements come together—framing the photograph; creating the proper sense of balance (is the tree centered in the photo or off-center), and the proper perspective.
But most importantly, if you are taking a photograph or buying a fine art tree print, then you should ask yourself…. Are you drawn to the tree…is there something about it that you find beautiful or intriguing?
After all, the purpose of fine art landscape photography prints is to create beauty and add interest to your home or office.
3. How important is color when photographing trees? Is there a tree color that makes the best photograph?
As I noted above, color can be very important when photographing trees. I am personally drawn to red leaves…sort of like a bee to honey. One of the reasons I went to Acadia National Park this past Fall was for the red colors that don't really exist in southwest Colorado. In my usual manner of exploring every possible back road, I came across this group of trees that exemplified exactly why I was there. It was a small, intimate scene, but one that I knew would look good as a fine art print.
Other outstanding fall colors are the orange tones and once again, the options are endless as seen in my Smoky Mountains Fall Colors Gallery. In this photo from Cades Cove, the orange leaves contrast with the deep green evergreen trees and the smokey blues of the mountains behind it. Your eye is drawn to the tree as its orange leaves light up the landscape.
Compare the orange-leafed photo above with the Bald Cypress tree photograph below with its brilliant red and orange fall color reflecting in the calm, mystical water of Caddo Lake, Texas. Caddo Lake is one of the largest bald cypress forests. Thick Spanish moss hangs off the trees, creating a mystical scene.
Caddo Lake is a truly unique fine art photography destination and the fall colors are well worth the trip. The orange tones in this photograph from my Cypress Tree Landscape Photography Gallery are totally different from the Cades Cove tree.
And certainly, when one thinks of tree nature photography and fall colors…yellow has to come to mind. I have spent countless hours in the Smoky Mountains and in Acadia National Park…soaking up all the brilliant yellow leaves….. on the paved roads as well hiking on trails that follow the creeks and streams.
My final thoughts as to what makes the best tree color to photograph is sometimes just plain old shades of green can create a fabulous fine art nature photograph. My attention to detail and to the shadows makes the various shades of green come alive. You can almost hear the hush of the forest as you view this landscape nature print with shades of green from my Olympic National Park Gallery.
For you, the art collector, having fine art prints of trees can help create a certain mood or emotion in your home or office. In particular, the time I take to emphasize the colors of the leaves helps to showcase trees in a way that makes them vivid and real.
As you scrolled past the tree photos, was there a color that caught your eye? Would your family room benefit from a fine art photograph that has a pop of red in it or would you prefer a fine art print that used just soothing greens?
You may have realized that the answer to all three questions in this article simply comes back to this one thought….. it has to be personal…. what attracts your eye and tugs at your heart.
At the end of the day, whether you are photographing a tree or purchasing a fine art tree landscape print, it needs to be a landscape scene that you find beautiful and makes you wish you could be there… having a picnic under the tree… walking past it ….. or simply standing there and taking in its beauty….it needs to be a tree landscape photo that creates an emotional connection with you.
If the photograph inspires such feelings in you then it is truly an outstanding fine art tree photography print.