Ivan Shishkin and the poetic side of trees or what if Shishkin was a photographer?

A series on various historic and prominent figures and how would they see the world if they were photographers.

We can find the symbolism related to trees in most cultures, where they play an important part in mythologies and religious believes. They represented old age, life and birth, wisdom, power and were often seen as having supernatural powers among other attributes.

Initially one might think that photographing trees may not be seen as a difficult task, after all they are stationary subjects shot against the sky. But in reality it may not be so.

One only has to see the works of Constable, Van Gogh and Shishkin to name a few and immediately come to a conclusion that there is much more to trees than being stationary subjects in a landscape. So how does one go about photographing trees? How does one try to produce the poetic depiction of Shishkin’s trees?

Solitary trees have an immediate visual attraction because they are the focus of the frame as they stand out against other objects in the frame. So choosing a solitary tree is in most cases a good starting point. In instances where there are multiple trees or a forest, then one can see how Shishkin masterful used light protruding through branches for example to give depth to the composition and attract attention to that part of the frame at the same time.

We should not forget that the sky plays an equally important role. A dramatic sky will produce a different mood than clear skies. One also has to see the relevance of the trees to the landscape itself, a tree can be one of many or one of few. A tree can enhance the image of the landscape and vice versa. A tree with significant differences among a dozen other trees produces a focus of interest because the pattern within the frame changes and grabs our attention.

Ivan Shishkin and the poetic side of trees or what if Shishkin was a photographer?
What if Shishkin was a photographer? (Black pines in the mist.) Imaginary image, Moments Mag

The crucial point in the equation is light. Light can make or break an image and it is true in all aspects and genres of photography. Protruding light through trees creates a mysterious and a moody feel and brings character to the image.

A tighter shot with detailed branches may in some instances prove to be more intimate especially if the lighting conditions are favourable.

An example with a tight composition where light falling on a single tree can replace a non existent solitary subject. in other words we can use light to make a solitary object.

Ivan Shishkin and the poetic side of trees or what if Shishkin was a photographer?
What if Shishkin was a photographer? Imaginary image, Moments Mag

It is also an excellent exercise to experiment with imagery and scenes that one would like to draw or paint, if you see a scene you would paint yourself then surely take a few photographs of the subject.

Ivan Shishkin and the poetic side of trees or what if Shishkin was a photographer?
What if Shishkin was a photographer? Imaginary image, Moments Mag

As always, it is a fun experiment.

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