Why am I drawn to aspens?
Unlike birch trees that have a white chalky covering, aspens exude a richness with a silver hued bark. Depending on the light, they look white or silver or even platinum in color. In the winter, the trunks glow twofold, in the spring the glowing silver trunks are topped with a vibrant cluster of bright green leaves, and in the fall the white bark is contrasted by leaves of golden yellow.
Years ago, Jeff and I saw a photograph at an art show. It was just a black and white photo of a stand of aspens, but we were captivated. Even in black and white, the trees glowed. We walked by the artist’s booth once, then again and on the third visit we purchased the photo. Yes, we purchased someone else’s photo.… and we had no hesitations doing so. It has had a prominent position in our master bedroom ever since. We love that photo.
It is this photo that created our admiration of aspens. It is also a thorn in our side. Can’t we capture an equally compelling photo? After all, it’s just a stand of trees and we are pretty good photographers.
So every time we have the opportunity to shoot aspens, we do. We wander around a forest and shoot dozens of photos. Each of us secretly trying to capture the one that will replace the one in our master bedroom.
Why do our photos fall short?
First, it is very difficult to capture the beauty of an aspen tree.
The light has to be just right to get the bark to glow. Too sunny and the trees are dappled – creating a pretty shot with too many light and dark distractions. On a cloudy day, the bark looks flat. The best light is a diffuse light, warm sunlight filtered through the clouds so that the bark glows.
Second, can you imagine shooting just one tree?
An aspen is just a tree. Somehow one tree in a photo doesn’t capture the elegance of the aspens. It has to be a cluster. The more trees, the richer and more unique the feel. But it can’t be a disheveled odd bunch of trees, there has to be an organization and a flow to the group. There has to be something unique about the arrangement to draw you into the photo. In other words, I need the trees to speak to me. They need to highlight their beauty without distractions.
I have wandered aspen groves in the Canadian Rockies outside of Jasper, in Flagstaff, Arizona and in Escalante, Utah. And yet, the perfect photo has eluded me. Finally, on this trip in Eagle, Colorado, we found a grove that had potential. It was good, so good, that we visited it twice in two days.
What do you think? Do these photos show off the elegance of the aspen? Do they draw you into the grove?
And for Jeff, do you think one of these could replace the photo in our master bedroom?
Let me know, and remember it truly is all about the light.
These are great! Can you post a photo of the original In your bedroom?
Yes, I agree this would complete the post and I will post a photo of the image when I can. Unfortunately, we are on the road for some time yet and the photo is packed away in a storage unit.
yes, I too have wandered so many times through groves trying to get not only the light you describe, but with the fog of clouds in the rear-most part of the grove. I once saw an image made by a friend who was out to capture something else, and simply turned (with a 4×5 view camera) and shot what I consider to be the image of my goal. Serendipity! Thanks for your narrative and the example images. I appreciated them, and appreciate knowing that even the pros have to work hard at something that would seem to be so readily achievable, but isn’t.
I have to admit, as much as I like my photos this time, I am a perfectionist and I believe there is a better photo to be had. I like what you have described “fog of clouds” that would be awesome. I know I will be out wandering the next grove of aspens I come across in search of a better photo. Replacing the one in the master bedroom may just have to wait!
I am another photographer in search of the “perfect” aspen tree shot. I haven’t been successful. Part of the success comes from being in a place where aspens grow. So my opportunities are limited. But it is fun to try.
I have always like the shot by Ansel Adams “Aspens” (Northern New Mexico, 1958).
Thanks for reminding me of Ansel Adams shot. Even now, I think I will return to the next aspen grove and continue to improve my shots. You are always welcome to join us on our search.