Many photographers who live in cities, and look for interesting ideas to photograph, naturally turn to street photography. Photographing birch trees in your city environment is another option to street photography. Remember, all photography, every type of object and motif is a challenge for you to practice you photography chops.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city that has a good portion of natural foliage, trees and parks, patches of land that have been left to the ravishes of nature, then it makes it worthwhile to go out with your camera and try your best to make something of those motifs, those natural compositions that supply a visual feast for a city dweller.
It might take a while to get your head around what’s on offer, but if you look hard enough you’ll discover at least few trees, or park landscapes that you can do something with, and hopefully turn into a lovely photography worth keeping.
When you look for natural objects, trees, landscapes and patches of nature to photograph, remember that your job as a photography is to be able to visualize it in a frame. This helps you to recognize how it will look as a photo.
That might sound obvious, but there are a lot of beginner photographers who are so wrapped up in the technical side of their camera that they don’t allow themselves the pleasure of just looking, seeing, and using the camera to take the shot that they envision.
Framing the small moments that you see as you walk around helps you to recognize a really promising composition. There’s a lot of advice about visualizing how you want to take the shot. Seeing in your mind’s eye the finished photo. This advice is good, but many people have a problem with really practising this ability. The reality is that you have to practice the art of looking.
By developing the habit of focusing on an object, thinking about it without using words, just the colours, the rhythms, the light and the darkness that creates the form, all of this will strengthen your visual language.
It will happen as time goes by, and as you allow yourself to see things for what they are. If you look, see, and watch, you will eventually get it. Your mind will use the colours and rhythms to create a language that a photographer uses to recognize a worthwhile subject for exploration.
Watching instead of simple glances, and not asking verbal questions is key to developing your visual language.
I think that one of the greatest explanations about photography, and any visual art, is that it teaches us to see. In other words, it teaches us to shut down the verbal rampage of words in our minds, and find a peaceful place within ourselves to rest but still deeply enjoy the world around ourselves.
I took this photo a couple of days ago. March, close to the turn of the season. Trees in the parks were showing a few buds at the tips of their branches.
It’s a time of year when we become filled with expectations and hope. The trees too. Bare branches eager to sprout buds and get going with the positive renewal process. Springtime is the season of hope.
So, despite wind and rain, dabs of sunshine bursting through the clouds now and again, it’s worth going out with a camera and looking for something that will make you stop and look.
In fact, if you enjoy landscape photography the weather is always a friend. Chopping and changing atmospheres help to create drama, change, urgency, and the feeling that anything could happen with the next gust of wind.
The photo of a group of silver birch trees wasn’t obvious when I first saw it. I had to stop and stand around, looking at all the other possibilities.
To be honest, my feelings were mixed about whether there was anything at all worth photographing. It was only when I made a decision to lift my camera and look through the view finder to see things in a frame, that a composition began to show itself. The frame helps to separate the motif from the outside world, and therefore our thoughts become more visual, our abilities kick in, and we recognize how we can create a decent photo.
The day was dim, a little breezy, and sprinkles of rain threatened a heavy soaking at any minute. The photo shows the day as it was. But with a difference.
The difference is important. I was the one looking at the group of silver birch trees, and it was up to me how I saw it. What I focus on is due to how I view a silver birch tree. I focus on a particular quality, and you will focus on a different quality, and see it as the central part of the object. This is important to note.
How you see an object is your business. It allows you to develop abilities to see the world, its objects, in a way that is unique to your way of relating to life. This allows you to freely photograph objects without being hindered by the demands of guru type photographers who claim that you must have the right settings for a tree, then different settings for a portrait. There are photographers out there who post process a photo by eliminating as much shadow as possible, and end up with plain, boring, lifeless faces in portraits. Their trees that have bright green leaves of exactly the same tone throughout, and bark that looks like old leather. Old leather is a nice thought, but try and make it look like bark. Trees bark, leather squeaks.
In the photo above, I wanted to bring out the white of the trees as much as possible. And, I wanted to get it “in camera”. I use Photoshop for balancing light and darkness, and to process a promising photo that I have basically screwed up in camera, but can be saved. I love Photoshop, and its possibilities for creativity, but the camera is where it’s at.
The white trunks were the most prominent part of the trees. As I watched and pondered the trees moving slightly in the wind, people playing Frisby close by, and a group of people in the distance, I began to get a feeling for the trees. So there’s this group of trees, and a bunch of people who are shifting and moving, and it irritates me. I decide to ignore the people and take a photo. Then I forget the people and get deeper into the white of the bark. I stand back far enough to allow all 18 mm of my Sigma lens to frame the shot. I know that if I adjust the settings on my ISO, shutter speed, and F Stop a couple of times, I’ll get the white trunks of the trees to be the expressive part of the photo – everything else will be the supporting cast who make the trunks look good on stage.
I think I got it. And then some more. At the base of the trees the dark plate of shadow works well to separate the beautiful flow of light across the green in the background.
I was hoping that I could add a little artistic quality. Lucien Freud, a painter, would often paint a portrait of a person standing on a carpet, or lying on a bed, then he would do a little extra work on a corner of the carpet to grab your attention, a small space where the eyes could rest and wonder for a moment before going back to the main subject, the person. I wanted this in the foreground, but the light dictated that it wouldn’t happen in camera.
Franz Marc, another painter, loved horses, he painted them expressively with beautiful colour and a fine brush stroke. In his diaries he points out that when you enter a field where there is a horse. You can’t own it, you must understand that it is a horse’s field. He went as far as stating that as far as the horse is concerned the field itself is the horse. So don’t step on its tail by trying to dominate its field. I wanted to photograph a silver birch tree – not own it.
After taking a couple of shots, I went on to find some fallen trees, chopped wood and various chaotic scenes left by wood cutters. I took shots, but nothing was as satisfying as the birch trees.
Each shot is an experiment. Never put all your money and emotions on one shot, one idea. Keep walking, looking and observing. The birch trees owned the field, I was only looking, and I took an impression of it back home with me. That’s good enough.