Quite agree! Trees like all things need the correct (sympathetic) light / conditions to make the best photograph. I will often re-visit a certain tree many times, looking for that combination of light and angle....sometimes, like landscape in general, you find it....many times not.
I contemplate a subject only from the standpoint of my visualization of the print with respect to the final distribution of tones in my minds eye------I firmly believe in trying to produce, visually, the "equivalent" of what was seen and felt about the subject when I found it.......yes, the old "equivalency" concept by Stieglitz. If I can do that, it is a success IMO. And yes, it points to the fundamental ideal behind the concept of the ZS which is visualization. I'm simply not cabable of contemplating a subject for the attachment of any kind of "meaning", nor do I want to be, I believe I would find that quite a stumbling block. There's a feeling I may have about a subject, I just strive to transfer that to the print.
Before you dismiss this as just so much hooey, consider that unless you are one of those fortunate persons who can take a flawless photograph by chance, understanding your subject is a vital step towards knowing how to photograph it.
What you call a flawless photograph by chance may in fact be a photograph made by a person that has worked through all the contemplation previously in his life and can now step up to the plate and make great photographs almost immediately.
The contemplation stage may in fact be sort of an amateur or learning process in the art of seeing, where a master may see it at a glance.
Moonrise over Hernandez was mentioned here and it is a great example of a master taking a photograph by seeing potential. The basic print is pretty mundane, but Adams saw the potential and the elements that he could enhance and turned into a work of art.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
I like trees, but I may go a bit light on contemplation. What usually happens is I catch a view of a tree of some perhaps unusual shape or structure, under some particular lighting that draws my attention -- sometimes I may just be taking a walk without any photographic goal. When actually making a photo, I may spend some time adjusting the composition as it will appear in the frame, but generally that's a pretty quick process; I've "seen" the picture already.
I honestly don't see the big deal about Hernandez. I assume that when I see the print in person I'll be more impressed. Many other Ansels that I prefer.
Anyway, now that I have created a thousand enemies for not towing the party line on Hernandez ....back to trees: I am very fond of them and have become friendly with quite a few. We spend quite a lot of time together and discuss reasons for being and so forth. One tree with which I have a special relationship is a very wise old ginkgo with a horse hitch in its base. This tree has seen many things. Here it is in full autumn glory: