About a year ago, I was searching for a personal photography project to work on. I chose trees. Not just any tree, but solo trees that had interesting branches and twigs. I didn’t care what time of day or what kind of lighting conditions. I wasn’t that specific. Like many New Year’s resolutions, I let this project languish. I barely photographed a tree all year. I did have plenty of opportunities as we traveled throughout the UK, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. I let it all pass without a photographing a single tree. Last week it all changed for me and my project. I shot a tree during our visit to White Sands National Monument.

Our first stop in the park was at the Dune Life Nature Trail, known for great photography. We decided to do a quick scouting trip as we had sand dunes to shoot coming up at sunset. As we trekked the one mile loop we came across a tree. This was not like any other tree.  This tree was amazing. It had all the elements I was looking for, a good trunk, great branches and nice twigs. This got my photography juices going. Maybe I could actually complete my project with this one tree. It was late afternoon, well before sunset, so the lighting was not optimal. The cloud cover did provide for even illumination, though a little flat.

3:30pm, 90 minutes prior to sunset. The light is a bit flat but does provide for some moodiness. 

Now, I had to figure out how to get Kathryn to keep coming back to this spot for sunrise, sunset, and then sunrise again. I wanted to shoot the tree in different lighting conditions. I suggested we come back in the morning, luckily she agreed.

7:30am Although not sunrise (the park doesn’t open until 7), at least we were in the golden hour, bathing my tree with warm golden light.

Since Kathryn had such a great time photographing the entire area (for some reason she ignored my tree), it was easy enough to convince her to come back this evening for sunset and the all important blue hour.

4:49pm It’s almost sunset and with the sun behind the tree, it allows me to get a silhouette.

11 minutes later with the sun long gone we get the last vestige of golden hour. It looks like me tree is repelling the clouds.

And then., 11 minutes later again, we are in the heart of blue hour. Everything glowed. The sand, the tree, and all the rocks.

After going through our photos later that evening, it was obvious to Kathryn we had to make one more stop in the morning. She sensed, rightly so, that I needed to complete my project.

Our second morning golden hour – this time we go their a bit earlier. Thus, the light is more golden.

Satisfied that my project was complete we headed out of White Sands, barely photographing the dunes. I guess we’ll have to go back. When we do, I’ll make sure I say hi to my tree.

Which one do you like best? I have my favorite.

Remember, it’s all about the light, especially during golden and blue hours.