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I find that one of my favorite subjects to photograph is trees. They are a unique subject with which you can use different approaches and techniques. You can photograph ultra-wide and incorporate a grouping of trees that shows the current environmental conditions. Isolating a singular subject with moody textures and patterns is another option. Sometimes getting up close and personal with a particular tree can reveal abstract compositions. Let’s explore some of these creative options and the gear that I typically use for tree photography.
I have a tendency to stick with my Canon 16-35mm L when shooting multiple trees within a single frame. This would be more of your typical wide-angle landscape photograph covering a vast scene. I like to shoot tree landscape photos when the light is on the warmer side, around sunrise and sunset. Usually I find that extreme weather conditions really enhance these photographs. For example stormy weather, fog, and mist dancing amongst the tree canopies and trunks.
Don’t be afraid to visit your favorite tree locations multiple times throughout the year to see how the season changes affect the mood of your photograph.
I tend to focus on scenes that have depth to them. Either the trees are far off in the distance, or there are trees scattered in a pleasing composition from foreground to background. It gives a sense of being sucked into the deep woods.
Photographing individual trees is like taking a portrait of a person. I like to try to capture the essence of the subject by finding textures and patterns that enhance a scene. Singular trees have unique personalities. Try to creatively capture them.
I also use my ultra-wide lens for these types of images to get more of the foreground and sky textures around the subject. Sometimes a zoom lens comes into play as well. My 100-400mm L can grab a unique looking tree far off in the distance that might be difficult to access otherwise.
Clouds can really enhance these type of images. I also find myself converting these tree portraits into black and white photographs. Again, fog and extreme weather conditions can enhance the mood you are trying to convey.
Another approach you can take with photographing trees is more of a detailed, abstract kind of photograph. Take time examining your subject. Does it have unique leaves? Does it have interesting bark textures? Are the roots exposed? Is the tree twisted into interesting shapes? You can use a zoom lens for these kinds of images.
The below bark photograph was actually taken with my ultra wide lens zoomed to 35mm. I stood as close as I could while still maintaining my depth of field. A tripod really helps with these images, along with photographing on a day that is not super windy.
Macro photography is another direction you can take by using a dedicated macro lens or extension tubes for you lenses. I tend to avoid shooting in harsh light for these images.
Most importantly, enjoy spending time out in nature with these giants! Some of them have been around a lot longer than we have. I like to spend time alone just appreciating them. Don’t forget to visit your favorite subjects repeatedly in different seasons and weather. They will appear completely different.
Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing sports.