Photo: The Tired Tree

The Tired Tree
I crouched in the dirt below this barren winter tree, camera pointed straight up, to capture this shot. The sky was white and overcast. The tree is old and tired from all that heavy Spanish moss weighing it down. :silly:

This looks like something from a horror movie, where the tree falls on you and kills everyone… I had to be careful framing this, as there were more youthful palm trees to the left and right which I had to exclude. This is often a great perspective, and it was critical not to cut off the branches at the top of the frame or else the tree wouldn’t seem complete. The branches to the left don’t matter. The trunk at the bottom-right doesn’t extend much passed the frame, but by not including its edges, the tree seems more impressive.

I converted to black and white and added a slight amount of contrast in Photoshop. No vignetting needed at the top, though I darkened the bottom corners. If you look at the source file, you’ll find it’s remarkably similar to the final. The sky really was bright like that and the tree was black against it. I shot in color mode (always do that for versatility), but the source file looks black and white because there was little color in the scene. I think I set the camera to cloudy white balance, appropriate for the bluish clouds. If it was sunny out, the neutral gray point would be closer to yellow, necessitating a lower color temperature (5200 K vs. 6000 K) to match the scene. If I shot this at tungsten white balance (3200 K), it would look really blue, but if I was under incandescent or tungsten lighting (yellow), the scene would look normal. Lower white balance temperatures are for yellow scenes, higher white balance temperatures are for blue scenes, because color temperature represents the color output of an ideal black body radiator at that temperature. 273.15 degrees Kelvin is 0 Celsius, 5200 Kelvin is 4926.85 Celsius which is 8900 degrees Fahrenheit. A black body radiator gets bluer at higher temperatures, say 7000 K, and yellower at lower temperatures, say 3200 K. When you set your camera’s white balance to 3200 K, tungsten, you’re telling it to set the color a black body radiator at 3200 K puts out as neutral gray (yellow). At 7000 K (shade), blue colors are neutral gray. So something that appears blue at 3200 K white balance will appear yellow at 7000 K white balance. An object that would appear blue at 7000 K white balance will be much bluer at 3200 K, and an object that is yellow when the camera is set to 3200 K white balance will be much more yellow when the camera is set at 7000 K white balance.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/500, F5.6, 30mm, ISO100, 2008-11-04T11:53:02-05, 20081104-165302rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as Richard Thripp.

15 thoughts on “Photo: The Tired Tree

  1. hey richard, my name is alex.. i am an art student in grand rapids, michigan. i recently used this tree picture as an overlay layer in photoshop for a poster design. is that ok with you? i don’t really have any way of crediting you on the actual poster, but i wanted to let you know… if its a big deal i can certainly take it away and use something else, it just fit perfectly with what i was trying to do.


  2. We’ve just taken lots of shots of our newborn baby in black & white, it’s so much more striking than colour. Everyone who has seen the photos always pick out the black and white ones as their favourite! Great images, keep up the good work!

  3. Nice picture! Black and white pictures are becoming a lot more popular these days.. My friend got married last year and she wanted a lot of black and white pictures of the day! The tree does look a bit scary though! Who would have thought that black and white would eventually come back into fashion?


    1. I don’t pick black and white just to be hip; the photo has to look better to my eye without color. Often it does, usually when there’s a lot of contrast and shadows like this. As long as all the photographers do that, black and white photos will be around forever!

      Another nice thing is that you don’t have to deal with white balance, grain seems more acceptable in black and white, and color calibration, colorspaces, soft-proofing, and profiling become simpler.

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