Wisdom of Trees

2009 - "Best Scenic", Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show

2009 - "Best of Show" and "People's Choice", New Mexico State Fair [Professional Division]

Reflections on “Wisdom of Trees”

In the final chapter of his book Mountain Light, Galen Rowell describes three elements that must merge to make a truly fine photograph of the natural world: technical proficiency, personal vision and light. Creating the photograph “Wisdom of Trees” was truly a convergence of these three elements for me.

I shot this image on October 6, 2008 at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, just north of Half Moon Bay on the California coast. I had just finished taking a four-day Fine Art Digital Printing workshop with Steven Johnson at his studio in Pacifica. Those four days brought not only intense focus on refining my technical proficiency, but also total immersion in further exploration of my personal photographic vision.

At the end of each workshop day, I drove out to the coast to explore with my camera. While I have been to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve before, I had not realized that in addition to a small beautiful cove populated with harbor seals, pelicans and other sea life, there is a high terrace behind and above the cove. And, on this terrace is a large, almost surreal grove of cyprus trees. Once I saw these trees, I found myself drawn back each evening to explore and experience them further. I took many, many photographs in the late afternoon light, trying to capture some sense of this place.

After the workshop was over, I had several hours the next morning before catching my flight back to New Mexico. I headed straight for the cyprus grove, hoping to experience the morning light. Again, I wandered, explored and took more photographs. Finally, I sat down at the base of one of these trees and quietly began to reflect on my recent total immersion in my passion for photography, a mix of building technical proficiency and refining my personal photographic vision.

Reflection turned into subconscious contemplation. Some time later, I opened my eyes to a different world. A fine sea mist had come into the cyprus grove off the ocean. The morning sun created a multitude of sun beams playing through the trees. Light had arrived. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the experience. Having just come off of four days immersed in technique, my photographic instincts were sharp. I knew that the dynamic range of the bright sunbeams and dark shadows of the bark on the cyprus trees was well beyond the dynamic range capacity of my camera’s sensor. Shooting from a tripod, I captured multiple sets of multiple exposures of different scenes as the light played through the trees. I took 46 images in 16 minutes, and then the light was gone.

Technical proficiency, personal vision and light... they all came together in experiencing and capturing the “Wisdom of Trees”.

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