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BUT - Ilkley, Yorkshire

PHOTOGRAPHIC PARADOX - Otley Chevin, Yorkshire

I absolutely love trees. They are truly living monuments, they catalyse my feelings of nature’s strength, they help me feel humble in their majesty, they remind me of childhood and they encapsulate all the very best feelings I have towards nature. But, they are so ‘very’ hard to photograph! Not the solitary one in a field, that’s moderately straightforward, or the one growing out of something that it shouldn’t, that generates interest, but the ones sounded by others. Well that’s a real pain to make work photographically. So to be fair I should change my opening statement to, ‘I absolutely love trees, but when their hanging out together, I find them hard to photograph!’

Now forests are wonderful places that generate such strong emotions for me. It’s a mixture of child hood fun, nature’s majesty, even an evolutionary resource and security. But can I tap into those feelings and transpose them into a photograph, can I buggery! The problem is composition.

Good composition tends to balance the viewing process, placing subjects, often strong graphical shapes in equal proximity around the frame, to offer an overall balance that is pleasing to the mind’s eye. This then is useful at guide the viewers eye around the image and if done well securing their attention, keeping it there as long as possible. (On a momentary side note truly ‘great composition’, for me, tends to have overall balance and good control over the viewers eye movements, but deliberately leaves elements of tension, to challenge the viewer. But I shall probably explore this in a further post.)

Anyway to my point, trees (or should I say the ones in forests) don’t fall into this formula, as they are unordered. It’s incredibly hard and often frustrating to find order in such a complicated environment, and balancing the viewer’s eye is near impossible. Now conceptually speaking this is wonderful, why should we find order in kayos, why should a composition formula make nature fit to our artistic desires? But our photographic desire to seek out and capture order, to simplify nature into component elements that balance the viewers eye is contradictory to how most forests actually are. They are unorganised, tangled, complex gnarled, wonderful, joyous, protective, natural places! Photographic paradoxes.

Note: this shot is the result of a 45 second exposure in heavy wind. The wonderful thing about the silver birch trees here is that they move evenly down the trunk (unlike more solid trees) and this gives a surreal feeling to the movement as some trees are protected by others and don’t move much, and others get gusts and move allot.

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