The Lonely Tree

The concept of the lonely tree is nearly ubiquitous in photography, to the point that it is sometimes considered a cliche. You've seen the images here and on other photographic websites; the single tree on a sloping hillside, or framed against a stormy sky at dawn or dusk, evoking loneliness, solitude, sadness, and other similar emotional states.

The image of the single tree can also be a study in detail, texture, and composition, as well as a documentation of the life of a particular tree. The great Michael Kenna most eloquently demonstrated this approach in his series of photos of an old tree on the banks of Kussharo Lake in Hokkaido, Japan. Over the years, Michael made multiple trips to Hokkaido to photograph the tree until it finally collapsed in 2013. He frequently referred to it as "his tree", and assigned it anthropomorphic qualities when describing his "relationship” with the tree. 

Michael's approach to his Hokkaido tree has inspired me to repeatedly photograph a handful of my favorite oak trees in the woodlands near our home. I'm always delighted to find a new and unique photograph waiting to be captured when I go back to visit my old friends.