Monday, January 22, 2007

The power of trees

click photo to enlarge
Mankind has always had a reverence for trees, and it's not hard to understand why. They are the largest of living things, and are the longest lived. Many appear to die in autumn, and burst into life again in spring. When you walk in a forest of ancient trees you feel enveloped by their branches, shaded by their leaves, and experience something of the awe, wonder, spitituality even, that accompanies walking down the nave of a Gothic Cathedral. And, when the wind stirs their branches and leaves, trees can appear to talk, in a soft rustling whisper, or in a moaning, shrieking roar!

The ancient Greeks believed in tree spirits, dryads, and thought that the gods punished those who harmed trees without first appeasing the tree nymphs. The "man in the trees" occurs in the folklore of many North European countries. As Herne, the hunter, a stag-headed man, he possesses the power to melt into the trees and disappear. The Green Man, a harbinger of spring, with a face and hair of leaves, can be found carved in stone and wood in many English medieval churches - Exeter Cathedral boasts no less than sixty green men. This imagery has been further developed by popular authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien who created "Ents", walking trees, for his "Lord of the Rings" stories.

I was reminded of this rich tradition of tree spirits when I came across this tumble-down outbuilding on the edge of the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. The cracks in its windows and walls were echoed by the crack-like shadows of a nearby tree, which loomed over it like a malevolent creature ready to complete the building's destruction. I photographed it from the adjacent road using a wide zoom lens at 26mm, with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f6.3 at 1/250 second), the ISO at 100, and -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen