A winter theme: Tree silhouettes

As the seasons pass, light, shadows, colors, the weather and the vegetation continuously change and create new opportunities and discoveries for the observant photographer (and of course also for the attentive observer without a camera). The different seasons therefore lend themselves to different photography themes. The recently presented carcolor theme is perfectly suited for the summer because brightly lit facades and objects create impressive reflections on car bodies. Light & shadow photographs obviously also necessitate sunlight to throw interesting shadows on facades or the ground.  Here in Zurich, the winter months are often grey and cold and there may be no shadow far and wide for weeks.  Since a couple of winters I take advantage of these rather depressing conditions to photograph tree silhouettes. Although these photographs are somewhat unusual for me - I really am a "color guy" - tree silhouettes are a perfect pursuit for grey winter days.

Poplar silhouettePappelTree silhouette 1: Poplar silhouettes

According to wikipedia, a silhouette is the shape of an object or person (or any living thing) of a single, plain color.  Silhouettes are a very old form of expression and can be created by different means. Traditionally, they were cut out from black paper and mounted on a lightly colored background, but all sorts of combinations, variations and collages exist.  I may have been preconditioned to this traditional art form because my parents have paper-cut illustrations and a book of a friend of theirs, Helmut Bögel, who is known for his humorous paper-cut illustrations of people. Silhouettes can also be drawn and of course photographed.

Tree silhouette 2Tree silhouette 2: Weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica "pendula") on Lake Zug, Switzerland

I appreciate silhouettes because they are an attempt to extract the essence of something much more complex, a kind of minimalisation that I am fond of. The reduction of a convoluted whole not only represents a loss, but may even reveal a pattern or structure that is only visible when the shades of grey are suppressed.  I think that the shapes and patterns formed by bare trees are much under-appreciated.  Each kind of tree exhibits a slightly different branching pattern and most fascinating are the individual nuances observed in the silhouettes within the same species. For example, the branches and twigs of a tree growing on the edge of a forest may all point in the same general direction and thus create a regular pattern. On the other hand, a lonely tree often adopts a harmonious, roundish shape that leads to a different kind of silhouette symmetry.

I hope that you enjoy some of these photographs and that they may encourage one or the other to have a conscious look at nude trees!

Tree silhouette 3Tree silhouette 3: Apple tree (Malus domestica) silhouette

2012/12/22 by Florian Freimoser
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