Many photographers have a love affair with TREES. I am one of them. I should have a bumper sticker that says: “Caution: I stop to photograph trees.” I admire their strength, structure and longevity. The four seasons reveal things about deciduous trees that I find exciting. Now in the winter season in Virginia, I see the strong dark trunks, the reaching arms and the smaller branches sometimes overlapping and fighting for space. In spring, the emergence of the pale green leaves or the blossoms on a fruit tree make me feel energy and enthusiasm. In summer, trees provide respite from the heat with their shade and breezes. And, in fall the warm colors impart a sense of peace and calm to prepare us for the resting period of winter. Evergreen trees are special in other ways. In religion, they are a symbol of eternal life. They exude stability, nobility, and constancy. They complete the landscape with a backdrop of strong greens amid the white or pink blossoms in spring or the autumn orange, gold and red. When the snows come they are adorned in white blankets, holding their arms to embrace the cold and quiet of the winter.
Photographing trees requires some planning. Sometimes the initial view of a tree is not its best side. There is a tree on a golf course near my home that survived a serious tornadic event in 2004. From one view it is a small, compact and shapely tree with nice curves. But viewed from another side, the damage from the storm is very obvious. One lone branch reaches out, upsetting the balance of the tree. It is a survivor, and it will be exciting to see how it changes as it matures. And, oh, the stories it could tell. Another set of trees that I have photographed many times is a row of Bradford Pears along my neighbor’s driveway. I have told her that I need to pay her rent for my time spent with her trees. I’m so glad I repeatedly aimed my camera at her trees, because a derecho last June took out more than half of them, and a subsequent wind storm a few weeks later damaged others.
It is no surprise to me that the TREE has become a major player in our Christmas decorating. I wondered about how and when that became a tradition. While the use of the tree in religious customs can actually be traced back to the time of paganism, as Christianity grew, the use of the tree carried over, and may have become a Christmas tradition as early at the 15th Century. Early modern Germany is the birthplace of the decorated tree and emigrants carried this tradition with them overseas. In the 1960s, due to the popularity of the Charlie Brown Christmas, aluminum Christmas trees adorned homes. In my childhood home we had a somewhat garish one which was white aluminum, and a rotating color wheel shone different colors on it to create special effects. That lasted two years until some brave soul in my family told my mother than we didn’t really like the white tree.
In this holiday season, I pay tribute to TREES.