11/05/2013 11:21 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Our Obsession With Canopied Trees


Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Last week I was driving with a friend up to Wintergreen Resorts near Charlottesville, Virginia. We were on a quest for foliage -- any decent foliage since this year has been rather lackluster in color. As her car straightened out after a turn, a scene in the corner of my eye grabbed my attention.

"Stop!" I commanded. "Go back... that's the shot!"

Moments later I was kneeling down on a dirt road capturing a canopy of trees that was not quite peak, but certainly worthy of my motto, "Spreading Pixel Dust."

Later that night, as I scrolled through images, there it was, what I knew would be a new favorite.
It seems that people are most drawn to images of canopied trees. Admittedly, as a photographer, they are one of my favorite subjects. Whether it was when I lived in California's wine country, Colorado's Rocky Mountains, and now in the Blue Ridge Mountains, these gems have been a find on just about all of my photo shoots. After capturing enough tree-lined driveways, roads and meandering paths, I began to wonder what it is about these images that makes us so drawn to them.

Perhaps it's their fantastical allure that makes it so we can't help but get sucked up in their depth and wonderment. An artist knows that anytime a photograph draws you in by making your eyes travel through the scene, their image will gulp you up like a shark does a minnow.
I believe there is more to it, though. Exactly why does the scene draw us in? Are we hoping for answers at the other end of the proverbial tree tunnel? Does the cocoon of a canopy provide us with a feeling of safe regard? Maybe, just maybe, we are reminded of our childhood adventures of climbing trees and skinning knees? Whatever creates that magnetic pull, that desire to crawl inside the image and relish in the peace and tranquility for a spell, it soothes the soul on some level that keeps us wanting more.

The photographer's choice is how deep to go with the depth of field. To provide insight on how a photographer might think through their captures of canopied trees, I'm sharing three completely different scenes and what went through my mind as I photographed each one.

California's wine country presented the opportunity for this image. Depth of field wasn't my choice in this one since the fog in the distance, by nature, gave the scene a shallower depth. Yet, at the same time, I loved how the fog teases the viewer to come forth.


Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Winter in the Colorado Rock Mountains is magical. While most were on the famous ski slopes, I was found spreading pixel dust on winter scenes. For this particular shot, I went with a higher depth of field because it was a crystal clear day. It was my goal to give credence to every snowflake. I also wanted to ensure the viewer's peak of Mt. Sopris in the distance, which creates the desire to run down the street to view it in its entirety.


Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Springtime in the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most welcoming experiences. This string of pear trees in Staunton, Virginia, quickly became a fan favorite. Of these examples, this one in particular speaks to the child in each of us. Spring represents rebirth and growth, and these trees make you want to climb them, and if you skin your knee, so be it. You are free!


Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography