As you may have figured out by now, I have a thing for trees. Not just any trees, but ones that stand out from others of their kind. Someday I’d love to sit and talk with Beth Moon, author/photographer of Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time and have her sign my copy. She embarked on a 14-year quest to photograph some of the most remarkable trees on the planet. As amazing as those that she included in the book are, I’m sure there were many more that she’d like to have included but couldn’t, and I’d like to know about those, too.
I’m fortunate to live in a part of the US that’s home to a variety of remarkable tree species. Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada mountains, valley oaks inland, bays in the Santa Cruz mountains, coast live oaks and cypresses on the coast, peppers, olives and jacarandas in the San Francisco bay area, eucalyptuses everywhere. My computer now holds about a thousand reference photos of trees, bark and leaves, and this number grows almost monthly.
Some people look at trees and say “What’s the big deal? It’s just a tree!” In my youth in rural Missouri, I mostly thought that about the trees there; there just didn’t seem to be much variety in shape or size. Here, the shapes, sizes and branching patterns are so complex, they get the attention of even casual passersby. I know, because some of my friends on Facebook who don’t normally pay attention to trees have posted photos. And sometimes those have prompted me to go find those trees to take my own photos.
The entire individual identity and history of a tree can be read from its shape, size, bark, branches, and roots. For example, a cypress clinging to a rock above the surf along the Pacific coast gets battered by salt spray, wind, fog, hot sun and winter storms. This shows in how its branches are sparser and smaller on one side, and how its roots wedge as deeply as they can into the crevices between boulders. Mosses and lichens might find a grip on its bark, if it’s a little more sheltered. A great place to see this scenario is at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just south of Carmel. Check out these photos I took there just last weekend!