Dynamic Beech Tree

Dynamic Beech Tree

20×24 prints are $1,250
30×40 prints are $2,500

In spring of 2000 Ruth and I once again found ourselves photographing at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky. The kind folks at Bernheim have always shown great hospitality and have allowed us to stay and freely photograph their beautiful grounds. Bernheim is divided into two primary sections: the arboretum area and the natural forest area.

This remarkable tree was in the south part of the arboretum area. Beech trees leaf out later than many other deciduous trees. Even though the dogwoods were in full bloom this tree was just showing many thousands of growth buds.

I was drawn to this image which shows the strong, almost hidden dark central trunks, the bright grey lightning flashes of craggy horizontal branches and the astonishing 100,000 + bronzed growing points.

This image needed my Nikkor-T ED 1,200mm lens to unite all of these strong visual elements. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/18 which made focusing a bit tricky as I needed to make sure every important part of the image was razor sharp. With Ruth’s help I was able to do it, having her adjusting the aperture while I stayed under the dark cloth, calling out various apertures as I made the view camera focusing adjustments.

To maintain maximum sharpness it was imperative that nothing move during the exposure. This image was made late in the day with soft light and very little wind. I made an exposure at f/45 for 3 seconds on Velvia 50 film pushed one stop for speed. With longer exposures like this it is important to wait not just for the wind to stop but for any gentle swaying of the branches to cease. The image is extremely sharp.

I waited 8 years until I finally printed it in 2008, first making some 20×24” prints then 30×40”. The larger prints were so dynamic that I went on to print five 40×50” prints. A worthwhile week’s work in the darkroom. To me the image has tremendous energy, almost electrical in nature that still takes my breath away.

Format: Large (horizontal)
Location: Kentucky
Reference key: dbt