There is a tree that's about half an hour's walk from where I live. It's striking because it's isolated within the landscape. It lies off a track called Scotland Lane (where it is said that Bonnie Prince Charlie hid after retreating from Derby).
How many ways can you photograph a single subject? How many stars in the universe?
All the images (unless indicated) were taken on my designated walk with an iPhone.
Important message: No selfies were taken during the photography of this tree.
I'm often tempted to get close up and personal, but sometimes it's better to skirt your prey - walk around it and find the best view. Here I've used the 'dip' in the landscape to emphasise the tree. The landscape pays deference to its existence. To make this a little more mystical, I fogged up the lens of my iPhone by breathing onto it. I also took this using the panorama mode on my device.
Be a little different - landscapes are often photographed in, err, landscape orientation. Try turning your phone and using portrait orientation. Be gracious with space, it can emphasise your subject. Here, I waited until the sun was swaddled in the tree, sat like a jewel in its branches. It felt good.
Did you know that you can blot out the sun with your thumb? Use your super powers to move around and angle the sun wherever you wish it to be. Here, I walked over to the right of the tree until I'd positioned the sun beneath the arc of the lower branch. I call it light sculpting.
You can also blot out the sun with a tree. Having the sun directly behind a subject adds deep contrast and emphasises the details. See how the branches look like tributaries? There's something immensely calming about following each branch outwards towards the sky.
Rule of thirds
If you imagine your device screen split up into thirds and position your subject along one of lines - it makes for a better composition. On this photo I've set the horizon on the top third. (Here's an explanation about the rule).
Let's stop and take a break. How are you doing? It's tough out there, we're all feeling it. This photo helps.
Getting close up and personal. The tree isn't just a tree. It's a living universe of biodiversity. Little micro-worlds living in symbiosis.
I'm feeling better already. Ready to move on?
Shape, light and texture
It often helps when there's direct sunlight. It creates interesting shapes. I love the way the light has highlighted the curves of the trunk of the tree. You can feel its spurt of growth - its slow unrelenting movement towards the light. I've included the foot of the tree - it looks like it has stamped its authority on the land.
Look up! I love the subtle touches of sunlight in this shot. Nature is fractal. There's scientific evidence that shows that we are drawn to fractals - things that 'nest' and duplicate. That's why nature is so enriching to us. These branches could be the arteries of a heart, or the tributaries of a river, or streaks of lightning.
The presence of absence
When it a tree not a tree?
Choose your time
Photography at first or last light feels very special. It adds atmosphere. When I make the effort to get up early I feel as though I've gifted something to myself. One walk at dawn equals three at noon.
Here's a bit I wrote in my Lockdown Diary:
There are special times of the day that balance on a pivot. They occur around sunrise and sunset when golden light melts into twilight blues. They are protected from stress and anxiety. Because they are at the day’s peak, nothing can hold on to them; bad news slides off like water off a duck's back. They are polarisers of the present, enemies of the past and future. Light levels drop - nature becomes luminescent. You can almost believe the angels are watching. I cherish these times - twice a day - first thing at dusk and last thing at night. It’s the day’s first breath or its last sigh. Nothing can touch them. Inhabit those moments, allow them to drift over you.
Here's a photo that I took with my professional camera (I wasn't on lockdown). It's from the opposite side of the tree at sunset. The sun is being pierced like an olive by the Winter Hill mast in the West Pennine Moors. Try photographing your subject at different times of day.
Share your work
I find it rewarding to share and write about my work. It's good to sit down and read your photograph like a book. Work out why it is pleasing and how it came about. Discuss it with others. Don't get caught in the trap of likes for likes - just be yourself. Your photography is unique, it's personal to you. You deserve it. Be good to yourself.
Stay safe and let me know how you get on!
Andy Marshall is in lockdown - but is usually an architectural photographer based in the UK.
More lockdown photography tips below
Link to: Lockdown Photography