March 22, 2018

Sunny, 25 Degrees, Calm Winds.

Our spring sunshine has returned, though the cold temperatures remain. It’s warming nicely in the afternoons, but the mornings are still pretty chilly. Clearly, this has been a year when spring comes on very gradually, rather than one where it burst upon us with unseasonably mild weather and early blooms.

This huge old Oak has a tremendous power to it.

This morning Jamie and I broke our routine of walking to the same woods every day for the first time.  I have covered those woods pretty darned well given that there has been no big change in the woods since I started, so I felt the need to see some new sights. I went to Island Lake State Recreation Area, which is about fifteen minutes from my house by car.

I didn’t want to break the consistency of my idea and of this blog, but it was getting to be time to do something a little different. I’ve photographed in this park and done other things there including bicycling, hiking and kayaking. It’s a fairly large park with a lot of different terrains to explore. I think it will keep me busy for a while. I’ll continue to photograph my local woods as well.



Today, I wanted to photograph a huge oak tree I know of, so I headed there first. There are limited parking areas and no roadside parking in the park, so I parked in a nearby turnout where a dirt road leads down to the Huron River. From there, I walked through a pine forest and across a meadow to the tree.

I was not disappointed. It’s a spectacular tree with a massive trunk and a huge crown of big branches with really interesting shapes. It’s probably a 200 year old oak, which means it was here when western people first began settling this area.


I lay on my back under the tree and framed shot after shot, trying to capture the majesty of the tree and create some interesting compositions. I floundered around on my back, moving from one vantage point to another, and I also stood up and tried other angles. I took a lot of shots, but there’s certainly more I could do. Experience tells me that the first time I shoot something is not necessarily the best. More sessions will offer refinements and new ideas and, of course, the weather will vary things further.

From there, I wandered into a grove of poplars nearby and shot their branches, shooting straight up again. Then I walked across the meadow to some more poplars and finally back to my car. Jamie was thrilled to have somewhere new to explore, as was I.

These are Poplar trees in morning sun. 

Yesterday afternoon I went to this same park and photographed some new bark. Oh, exciting, I know! But in fact, I was excited. The trees there are older and bigger and there was bark I had not seen before and many examples of things I had seen which were easier to photograph because of the size.

On the way home, I was thinking about the shapes the bark takes on the different trees, when the phrase “architecture of trees” and shortly “architecture of nature” came to me. It’s what I’ve been shooting for weeks now with all the bark and branches I’m shooting. I find it fascinating how nature has created so many different forms for essentially the same function. I love how distinctive each species is and I find their various designs absolutely beautiful.

This is the meadow adjacent to the oak tree. The grasses are flattened from a winter of snow.

My father was an architect, so I suspect that I am particularly sensitive to these ideas. I appreciate the trees as an artist as well. They’re beautiful, to be sure, but there’s something about the way nature takes these forms that draws me. Why does she do it, and how did she arrive at some of these forms? How do the trees differ that generates these forms? Why does one tree grow smooth bark, while another grows such thick and complex shapes. What is the mechanism by which their cells grow this way?

All very interesting to me, and exciting to have an umbrella to put over what I’ve been doing by instinct. It gives me further ideas as to what I might photograph next. Leaves, of course, will be very exciting when they appear. Flowers too. And how about the various pine cones and nuts the trees produce. We have a lot of oaks that grow acorns, hickories that make their own kinds of nuts; walnuts and chestnuts as well. What an embarrassment of riches (and what an odd and interesting expression.)

The massive trunk and bark of the Oak tree. 

So, after feeling a bit in the doldrums in the morning, I ended the day filled with excitement at the idea of the architecture of nature and excited to begin exploring new territory.

It will be interesting to photograph at Island Lake again. I’ve photographed there before, including shooting the oak tree I shot today, but I never found images I was happy with. Coming up with the idea of shooting upward made all the difference. I think I photographed the park more conventionally before. Pictures of normal human views that weren’t always very exciting. Who knows how I will see and photograph the park now.

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