White Dogwood Canopy

White Dogwood Canopy

20×20 prints are $2,000
30×30 prints are $4,000

In 1990 and 1991 the Bernheim Forest Foundation in Kentucky gave me two artist grants to photograph at the forest. They also provided a place for me to stay on the grounds and gave me keys to the gates to the fire roads and complete freedom to photograph before and after the usual public hours. In addition to the grant, we’ve maintained a wonderful relationship with the folks at Bernheim Forest and have been allowed to photograph there under similar conditions for many years.

This image was made in the spring of 2000. There are quite a few native white dogwood trees at Bernheim Forest. This one was on the home property of the Bernheim Director.One of the primary difficulties of photographing dogwood blossoms is wind. Each blossom is perched on a very thin branch and the blossoms act as sails, wafting in the wind. This sunny day was absolutely calm and the blue sky was mostly clear. The blossoms were at their peak and the tree was magnificently inspiring.

I first tried to make an image with my 8x10 camera and a wide angle lens but had to give it up after about 45 minutes of struggle. I was trying to shoot almost straight up, with the camera close to the ground but composing and focusing the image proved impossible. So I switched to the Hasselblad with a 50mm lens and a prism viewfinder.

When composing an image with a wide angle lens and fairly close subject matter, moving the camera a fraction of an inch noticeably changes the composition. So I hand-held the camera, moving in and out underneath the tree until I found the image that you see here. Carefully marking the spot, I put the camera on a sturdy tripod and made this exposure.

Making the print is a delicate matter. The blue colors progress from a light cyan in the lower right corner to a clear true blue color in the upper left corner. The whites are luminous but need to be held to the right density and color balance. Dodging and burning each print has to be precise and flawless to bring the Cibachrome print into a unified whole.

This image, like some others of mine, consists of three visual layers which interact with each another. There’s the blue sky background, the craggy framework of the black branches, and the flocks of butterfly-like white dogwood blossoms that all work together to make an image that is more than the sum of its parts. It never fails to warm my heart.

Format: Medium (square)
Location: Kentucky
Reference key: wdc