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?

Beautiful Aspens, but the dappled light is distracting and there is no focal point so the photo falls short of it’s potential.

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.

The bark seems to glow – is it silver? platinum? or just magical?

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.

Here the trees lead the eye into the grove with a pine tree as a focal point

The three trees on the left lead you in and create a focal point in the midst of the grove. The color – glowing again.

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.