How do you approach composition when photographing trees?

Discussion in 'Landscape' started by Bill Burk, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    When photographing trees, my eye is caught from a distance, by some interesting feature.

    Maybe the tree is an outstanding specimen in its own right, maybe it is struggling against the landscape. Sometimes it's one of many and there is nothing especially unique, except the way a certain branch hangs down.

    After seeing a tree I want to photograph, I will walk right up to it if terrain allows, otherwise I will walk around so I can see if the thing that caught my attention looks better from a different view. Once I have selected the direction, then I look at the surrounding trees and landscape for contrasts or repetitions. I'll back away while looking in the finder until it looks better or worse and then correct.

    Then I'll work on the composition of the photograph.

    What's your approach?
     
  2. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    I don't know but I can't stop photographing them, trees are probably half of what I shoot. I usually walk around til I find a vantage point that eliminates as many things other than the trees themselves.
     
  3. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I use either 85mm or 135mm for capturing trees. What interest me is always the texture of the bark, chaotic arrangement of branches and sometimes whole tree itself.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/baachitraka

    Some trees, but most of them are d******

    I wish I own a tele rollei but I am happy with tele zuikos.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Generally it is the light that directs how I compose and work with trees. Trees are in 95% of my images, but I still more interested in the light.

    8x10 platinum print:
     

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  5. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    I whip out the binoculars first... just in case there's a bird that needs watching. :D
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    That is a very interesting question Bill, as often there is no specific compositional arrangement for a tree/s. I think some trees are just photogenic and others not. I have always loved the version below

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=s...ry-fox-talbot-oak-tree-in-winter.html;600;689

    by Fox Talbot that he made with his calotype chemistry. I think I have seen this tree in the grounds of Lacock Abbey, but not as good as his portrayal. I have sometimes wondered if a better image of a tree could be produced with greater mental closeness (probably not the right term). I have never done this, but have sometimes wandered in the past about sending out 2 groups of about 10 students and asking both groups to photograph trees, but telling one group they must meditate for several minutes on their subject tree before taking the shot. If we were then to display the images from both groups, would the pictures from the meditation group have more presence? I don’t know, but it would make an interesting experiment.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'm usually attracted to the interplay between the light and the tree(s). So my approach varies with the light.
     
  8. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    I approach them from downwind. They are easily spooked.
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    For the grand old trees spreading in all directions around these parts, my first worry is finding a lens that is wide enough to get all of the tree in, from the base to the most distant branches. Snowgums are naturally photogenic and can be photographed in-close (e.g. after rain, when it intensifies colour), after snow (texture) or distance (context with the environment). Redwoods are perhaps the most difficult to photograph well because of their height and serried arrangement: a pattern must be established that is pleasing to the eye.
     
  10. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    My previous post was entirely flippant, but I do photograph trees a lot.

    For me, there is usually a moment when I see a certain fall of light and form that says "photograph". If I don't do it (take the picture, I mean) then and there, but wait and try to get it "just right" then I end up with a photograph of some trees. Rather than the particular emotional fizz of that thing I saw. But sometimes I go back to the same tree or trees, month in and month out, waiting for something to be there. And sometimes it is. and often it isn't.
     
  11. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    [​IMG]

    They compose themselves. I can't stop myself from looking at them as figures, projecting anthropomorphic ideas onto them that are unjustified, childish and silly but nevertheless that is how I approach trees when carrying a camera...

    RR
     
  12. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    As I look over my work, I think there is no single answer -- other than perhaps I approach things intuitively. It could be an overall shape, alone or relating to other elements in the frame. It might be a line or curve or group of curves. Maybe an odd perspective such as looking upward into starkly lit branches. I have often been attracted by sycamores with their flaky bark patches, especially highlighted against a deep autumn sky when the trees are bare.

    Sometimes it's about texture. A few years back I took a shot of sycamore tree bark trying out my Bronica macro lens. I got in close and captured about a 12 inch square section of tree trunk (it's in my gallery stuff here). I entered it in an art show under the title "Sycamore." It got a modest award from a judge who is a painter and quite outspoken about believing paintings and photographs shouldn't mix in shows. But in her judge's comments she left "What a creative approach to photographing a tree! Only an artist would pick up on the design offered by nature." One of those "gee, did I do that?" moments! It later sold out of another show. Was it carefully planned, no, just happened the lighting on the nearby tree caught my eye as I was sitting in my car finishing a cup of coffee before going for a walk with the camera. The shot was selected from several taken that morning, but I can't recall any formal process to the one picked -- just that "I liked it best."

    Sorry -- a lot of blather to say "go with your gut instinct." :smile:
     
  13. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    My favorite place to photograph; Carbon prints of various sizes (5x7 and 8x10):
     

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  15. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    They're quite atmospheric images, Vaughn. I resorted to a 24mm tilt/shift lens on my last visit to Avenue of The Sequoias in Victoria's Great Otway National Park, but still ran into problems getting their 75m height. I swapped to 45mm (MF) with studies of the light and shade on the lower trunks in arrangements (similar to photo 4 in your line-up) and this worked very well indeed. They are huge, graceful, straight and very sturdy trees; planted in 1936 as part of an experimental plot on land that gets a lot of fog and mist, which is how sequoias 'drink', by taking in moisture from their crowns. I will return again this winter for more imaging.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    ho bill.

    when i photograph trees i tend to see them i several ways.
    one might be a compositional element if i see them from a distance
    as the get closer to me i see them differently almost like living sculptures
    not sure if that makes sense.

    cliveh, i totally understand the meditative approach you suggest to your students.
    and can see how people have worshipped and have had a religious/spiritual connection to
    trees and woodlands ...
     
  17. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    All I know is I've been trying since I was 12 for a good tree print...
     
  18. irvd2x

    irvd2x Member

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    I go with what my eyes enjoy,regardless of the fact that it is a tree.I generally like an aspect of shape or texture or color..the treeness of it.I dont try to show the whole thing as a specimen documentation.


    Sent from my LG-P509 using Tapatalk 2
     

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  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I love trees. I even find myself talking to them occasionally!

    Sometimes I use my 6x12 camera on its side:

    11155028033_9e208e0f70_c.jpg


    Steve.
     
  20. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

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    Photograph any ash trees you see around you in the US. They won't be around much longer.
     
  21. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Why is that?


    Steve.
     
  22. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    +1

    [​IMG]

    RR
     
  23. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    You make total and perfect sense!

    RR
     
  24. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    As one who has done some study on these beauties, I will say this is not quite right. If the temp gets low enough, fog moving thru Coastal Redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens (rarely are they referred to down here as 'sequoias"...that is usually used for the Sierra redwoods, Sequoiadendron giganteum, such as in Sequoia National Park) the moisture from the fog gathers on the leaves and drips down to the ground, thus providing moisture for the trees during the periods of little rain in the summers. No moisture is drawn in by the leaves, but of course the fog reduces the transpiration rate and helps keep what moisture in the leaves in the leaves.

    While attending university in New Zealand, I would visit the five redwoods in the botanical park in Christchurch about every week (there was one on campus, too). They gave up trying to grow them commercially...they grew too fast, making the wood too weak for structural uses.
     
  25. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Because of Ash die-back, a fungal disease that has entered the UK from infected Ash from NW Europe, being sold in UK nurseries, and seems to be on the verge of becoming epidemic.
     
  26. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I'm not a photograpjic hunter ,looking for a composition I like .I compose my oown scenes in the studio; to me ,it's the difference between taking and making photographs.For treesI'd have to get into bonsai first.