There are a million famous quotes about trees, but not a single one can explain why they've captured the emotions of artists since the beginning of time itself. Cezanne spent years painting the same trees, and some of his favorite childhood memories were of spending time under a pine on the banks of the Arc. The only artist of his time he admired, Monet treated the living things with a reverence once reserved for paintings of religious symbolism. A thousand years of poets have written acres of poems on paper from their beloved trees. As a small boy growing up in Ohio, I had a "relationship" with a maple tree, that to this day brings a smile to my face.
There is a particular twisted old pine tree that has teased me for the last fifteen years. I see it every day from my cabin windows here in the Wind River Canyon. This ancient pine tree is all but inaccessible to everyone but the birds. He grows on the high cliffs on the other side of the Wind River here in the canyon, perched on the very edge. Even if I were to hike over and up to this old pine, I couldn't photograph it the way I envisioned this tree in my mind. If I had a dollar for every picture I've taken of this twisted old tree, I'd have a heck of a lot more money than I do now. It's twisted, dry ancient branches speak of long decades of terrible winds, forty-below temperatures, and Summer Sun scorching the Earth at over one hundred.
Just yesterday afternoon, the realization that I could image this ancient tree with a long telephoto lens was enough to motivate me; but I needed to plan this one out. Three hundred millimeter lens with a one-point-four extender on my DSLR, this heavy-weight mounted to a solid tripod. Because this old pine could only be shot by birds, I needed the best sharpness, not the ultimate speeds I use when documenting the breeding hummingbirds here in the Wind River Canyon; this twisted, old pine at least couldn't get away! I worked the file in what is known as HDR (high dynamic range) to bring out colors of the artist; Monet would have approved of the results....my wife did late last night. It has always appeared that this pine is trying to keep from sliding over the edge of the cliffs, it's "arms" reaching out for support, lest is fall. Down the Wind River from here is a collection of trees that even in Wyoming is not to be found. Some are native and some aren't, but if conditions are absolutely perfect, the rainbow display by these trees is very unusual in this state; in fact, very unusual for the canyon. Only once in the last seventeen years have conditions been this perfect. I was hiking around Yellowstone National Park in a cold Fall rain, when I came upon a poor pine tree that was trying very hard not to fall into the deep canyon far below. The agony of survival this tree displayed struck me. It was an emotional moment, standing in Yellowstone in the rain, this little pine tree asking me to document his survival; it's been a popular photograph and one that still moves me. The very last blue mountain ridge is the northeast rim of the caldera, so his survival is no more promising than ours. The last tree image we will be discussing, in this week's Wind River Canyon Blog, is a photo I saw finished the moment I'd rounded the corner. It was a cold Winter's day, bleak and dreary, all the good life has faded away. The cold picnic table empty of joy, that uncomfortable man-made stone jutting into our photograph; we'd all like it to be removed, but it cannot be. I've had people get angry it's there at all....those are the ones that missed the point. The title of the picture has always been.......The Soul of the Enemy. Does the photograph of this lifeless tree now take on a different meaning for you? Do you feel the emptiness conveyed in this black and white image? Wind River Canyon Blog written by Michael John Balog - All photographs by Michael John Balog and all rights are reserved.
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