Trees are such common plants/objects that they are easy to overlook as separate subjects for your digital photography. Take a closer look at any tree and you’ll discover a wonderful symmetry and a natural majesty that are well worth the effort to learn how to photograph them. The ideas in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article will guide you down the paths to the trees that will become a new section of your portfolio.
1. Look for a Single Tree.
Trees are typically found growing together, which makes it difficult to feature just one of them. The solution is to spend some time looking for isolated trees on a farm pasture, a golf course or the grounds of a park, for example. Now your sylvan subject matter stands alone, so you can shoot it from any angle and view.
2. Compose with Angles and Patterns.
Trees are extremely complex plants. Often, their parts make for just as interesting digital photos as full views. Move in closer to find angles into a tree’s canopy that reveal the patterns of trunk growth, the structure of a small branch and even the miniature world of leaves. Bark patterns and the position of buds identify trees and, under the right light, can create abstract or surreal images.
3. Frame with Care.
If you’re shooting a single, insolated tree, then try different framings with a distant object as a secondary focal point, such as a farm building, tower or the pole and flag on a golf green. You may discover a forest clearing with a single, small tree in a pool of light. Frame a digital photo of the entire tree surrounded by larger versions of its species; or shoot from below the small tree to show the sunlit space above it and the circle of mature treetops.
4. Light It Right.
Maybe why trees are not always considered worthy photographic subject matter is that most of the pictures of trees taken by the average photographer are not lit to emphasize trees’ unique qualities. Knowing how to use light will help you enhance your digital photos of trees and make them more dramatic. As with any nature photography—landscapes, plants and wildlife—the special lighting conditions of dawn and dusk will help you create the best pictures of trees. Backlit by the sun, or a sunset, transforms trees into beautiful silhouettes. Shooting digital photos of trees with the intense golden reflection of the lowering sun is an entirely different way to use light. Use your flash unit for other interesting lighting effects of trees and their bark and leaves.
5. Know the Weather.
Digital photos of that isolated tree on the hill are just as interesting when taken on a cloudy, stormy, windy, raining or snowing day as in full sunlight. Dramatic clouds add to the majestic feeling. High winds toss and move the branches and leaves, so you can take some pictures at slower shutter speeds to capture that movement. Rain dripping from one leaf to another below is also captivating. Snow covers trees in unique ways and often create icicles as it melts.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article with more tips about how to photograph trees.