As you've no doubt deduced by now, a behind-the-scene motive of
mine in presenting these forest images on the ENTS list is to entice
better photographers than I am into visiting idyllic Berkshire
forest sites with me. It is my increasing belief that exceptional
forest sites and features need to be captured on film for posterity
before climate change, forest policy, disease, etc. claim out
champions and reduce exceptional forest sites to mere memories.
The direct benefit of being a 'forest snob' (I clearly am that) is
that I spend most of my time in the truly exceptional forest sites.
I abandon unexceptional places pretty quickly. But other than those
who accompany me, and with a few other exceptions, not many people
visit the exceptional places - or if they do, their 'snob eye' isn't
sharp enough to distinguish the nice from the exceptional -
exceptional for Massachusetts, I mean.
In my self-appointed mission, I'm struggling to get good pictures
because while I may have an intuitive feeling for fairly artistic
shots, as recognized by my friend Don Bertolette, I have simple
equipment and only the most rudimentary understanding of the
features of the camera that could be employed to capture difficult
scenes. The job calls for someone with greater skills and
experience. For example, the three attached images represent my
attempt to capture the extraordinary rock and rock-tree scenes on
Todd Mountain. I flubbed most shots badly. The challenge of
photographing green, on green, on green with dabbles of gray and
brown was too much for me.
To put an even finer point to my lament, yesterday, when exiting
the Trees of Peace Grove, I decided to check on a favored striped
maple. It is fairly slender, but not small. Most people who pass it
misidentify it. It would appear large to people who recognize the
species, but likely they would not look up, except to ID the tree.
Only a tree nut like me (and others on the list) would take further
notice of it. But what should we notice? Holy Molly, as Dale would
say, that sucker soars. I remeasured it and its upper leaves are 66
vertical feet above its base! There may be a leaf or two at 67 feet,
making it one of 4 striped maples in Mohawk that I've measured to
over 60 feet in height. All of us routinely see the species in the
woods. It typically struts its stuff at girths of 12 to 18 inches
and heights of 25 to 45 feet as typical maximums. People are often
very impressed when they see those dimensions. Well, in the Hopper
of Greylock, I've measured specimens to 40 inches DBH. In Mohawk,
I've made it to 39 inches. I've measured striped maple to 54 feet in
the Adirondacks, about the same in the Catskills, and commonly 30 to
45 feet elsewhere, but haven't broke 60 feet anywhere in the
Northeast except in Mohawk and Monroe State Forests. I'm sure sites
in NY and PA have striped maples in the 60-foot height class, but
Joe, I'd love to capture the verticality of striped maple in our
forest reserves, but I have no idea of how to photographically
capture what my eye sees with the species, other than its large,
bright green leaves and elegant striped bark. Both these features
are evident up close. We don't need to search for the biggest or
tallest to photograph its leaves and bark. But what if we want to
capture it in its full glory, capture its extraordinary canopy
achievement in areas of mature forest? Can that be done?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joseph Zorzin" <jjzor...
Sent: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 7:40:56 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada
Subject: [ENTS] Re: A good day in the field
when I see such pictures- and they are very nice- I wonder
how they'd look with a fish eye lens? anyone have one?
another camera option I'd love to try if I could afford it is
a double camera designed to take 3-D images, which you then look
at with a viewer, as we all did as children- I still remember
how much those viewers blew me away- I'd love to use one for
----- Original Message -----
From: Randy Brown
Sent: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 9:28 PM
Subject: [ENTS] Re: A good day in the field
The next image looks high into the canopy of the Algonquin
Pines. The sight is inspirational. When I go to the Algonquin
Pines, I frequent the location of this image. There is a
substantial difference between looking up into the canopy of 90
to 100-foot trees versus those near and above 150. This brings
me to a point.
Ahhh.. beautiful canopy shots. Here's a few good ones I've
gotten in Ohio.
#1 Is looking up into a ~120' Tulip trees in Mohican State
Forest. #2 Is a grove ~140+' white pines in Hocking Hills State
Joe Zorzin wrote (August 5, 2009)
Regarding photographic techniques- I've read a lot on the subject
but I'm a bit too lazy to take the extra time. It would be necessary
to slow down and I know you get so excited when amongst your
favorite trees- that to stop and fiddle with a camera's adjustments
A few things that stick to my mind are:
a.. use a tripod, then stop down the exposure as much as
possible, while making sure that the meter is looking mostly at the
b.. bright cloudy days are best- to minimize extreme contrast which
usually makes dark trees and rocks too dark and grainy
c.. most modern digital cameras have options for typical scenarios-
choosing those is much simpler than actually adjusting exposure or
d.. use of a high powered flash can make up for dark woods - or woods
with too much contrast- photography purists hate using flash, but if
it gives a clearer picture, so what? if used carefully, I don't know
if anyone could tell you used a flash- and, with the flash, and the
camera set on automatic- the camera's meter will do a great job
e.. lens quality is very important, along with the size of the image in
pixels- I'm not sure what the "sweet spot" is at this time for
digital cameras in terms of getting the most bang for the buck but
it might be worth investing in a digital SLR camera- which looks
like a 35 mm
I recommend to everyone to check out Dave Gafney's web site- "50
tips to great outdoor photos" at:
http://www.gafneyphoto.com/ Dave sells a DVD with all those tips
but offers several on that web site.
A decade ago I bought a top of the line 35 mm with extra lenses
but I wasn't happy with it. Using such a fancy camera can probably
result in superior images to digital but using film is obsolete-
just too much trouble. I'm quite happy with the 700 digital 3 meg
pictures I can take with my Canon HV-20 video camera. Most come out
very nice- perhaps not nice if printed, but nice enough for the net-
especially with brightly lit scenes.
For truly blow your mind photography, I think most professional
photographers will say you need to use a "large format" camera- one
of those big boxes which have huge negatives- but carrying those
cameras around is a huge chore- probably best for large landscape
scenes rather than routine shots of trees.
I recall seeing in a bookstore once some large formatted images-
poster size- of forest scenes- the detail was microscopic- it was
like looking through a window into the real forest. Perhaps such
extra effort could be taken for your absolute favorite trees of all
Meanwhile, as we discussed recently, I hope to TRY to video tape
you at some of your favorite Berkshire forests.
In my experimenting with the video camera- I taped myself in my
early succession forest behind my house- which is growing into an
abandoned gravel pit, which was not reconstructed with top soil-
and, on that site, the previous owner left all sorts of construction
debris which I'm slowly trying to clean up. The forest consists of
birch, white and pitch pine, poplar, etc. Nothing exciting, but I'm
excited about it as I can improve it by cleaning it up, prune some
trees, thin it out- so that instead of a trash heap with low value
small trees, it may someday, in another 50 years, look decent-
purely aesthetic work. I have this minute long video at
http://vimeo.com/5876075 which is password protected- the
password is "enip" which of course is "pine" spelled backwards. I
used a wide angle lens, a tripod, a shotgun microphone and
controlled the camera with a remote.
Don Bertolette wrote (August 5, 2009)
I'm reminded of how long you've been searching for ways to
photographically capture what your eye sees in the woods, when I
think back to the 90's when you were working with, hmmm, I want to
say Melendez, a photographer acquaintance of yours with an array of
lenses to bring to bear on trees.
I have only seen one feature that I can think of that is relatively
new, that might help. Not in terms of accurate graphical analysis
(measurements), but in terms of including entire trees in a single
My nephew recently purchased a Canon (a model unfamiliar to me)
which enables him to capture a panorama by depressing shutter
release, panning the camera from left to right and then releasing
shutter...exposure changes seamlesses as you pan. There's no reason
one couldn't pan vertically with a similar success. Well of course,
but for other trees and shrubs being in the way...
As we get single devices doing multiple tasks, it won't be long
before most cameras will have GPS imprinting coordinates, time/date,
etc. either on image or in the image metadata, or both.
Some already do.