Earth's largest living monuments: beauty and majesty of the planet's oldest trees
American photographer Beth Moon has spent the past 14 years travelling the world in a quest to document the world's biggest, rarest and oldest trees. Most have only survived thanks to their isolation on remote mountainsides, private estates, or nature preserves, but just a few maintain a proud, though often precarious, existence in the midst of civilization.
'Standing as the earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment, celebrating the wonders of nature that have survived throughout the centuries,' she writes on her website.
'By feeling a larger sense of time, developing a relationship with the natural world, we carry that awareness with us as it becomes a part of who we are.'
Bristlecone pine: This tree could be one of several particularly old specimens in the U.S., which are believed to be up to 5,000 years old
Croft chestnut: This ancient tree in the grounds of Croft Castle in the Welsh Marches is between 400 and 500 years old
The Sentinels of St Edwards These yews framing the door of a church in Stow-on-the-Wood, Gloucestershire, inspired JRR Tolkien
Wakehurst Yews: These yews at Kew's country estate, Wakehurst Place, were a few years ago found to be more than 600 years old
Buffelsdrift Baobab: This massive tree near Lephalale, Limpopo, is one of South Africa's five biggest baobab trees
Rilke's Bayon: This massive tree is growing from ruins in Cambodia
Off To Market: This picture shows women walking past the baobab trees of Madagascar on their way shopping
Quiver Trees At Dusk: These South African trees, a type of aloe, are named for the practise of hollowing out their branches to make quivers
Kings Canyon Sequoias: The giant sequoia is the world's most massive tree, and arguably the largest living organism on Earth
General Sherman: This tree in California's Sequoia National Park is by volume the largest known living single stem tree on Earth
The Nantglyn Pulpit Yew: This yew, rumoured to be 5,000 years old, can be found outside St James Parish Church in Nantglyn, Denbighshire
Ifaty teapot: This particularly stout, almost bottle-shaped baobab tree specimen grows near the west coast of Madagascar
An ancient Bur Oak Tree
By Patrick Traylor, email@example.com
There is a tree that stands alone among the cornfields- about 5 miles south of Platteville, Wisconsin in the southwest corner of the state. Photographer Mark Hirsch drove by it almost every day for 19 years and never once stopped to take a picture. Then one day, he did.
Hirsch made the above picture on January 20, 2012 after friend sent him a text urging him to try out the camera on his new phone.
“At the time I never even considered using the iPhone camera for anything more than a passing snapshot,” recalls Hirsch. “As a result of her text though, I stopped and trudged through a crazy snowstorm to make a picture of the tree… A friend posted a note to me on my facebook page saying ‘Dude, what’s with you and that tree, you should do a photo a day with it.’ On his challenge, I officially started the project on March 24, 2012.”
Hirsch spent the next year photographing that tree every day, documenting the changing of seasons and sharing the tree’s hidden world with a growing Facebook following.
“It was never easy and it never came naturally,” writes Hirsch. “But when I found that scene, situation or moment that made me comfortable that I had made a worthy picture for the day, it was incredibly rewarding personally. At some point, I really began to appreciate the contemplative nature of my visits to that tree.”
At first mention, a year in the life of a tree might not immediately sound interesting, visually or otherwise. Hirsch’s pictures, however, uncover a complex web of life and color surrounding the tree.
“I would describe that Tree as I would a friend,” writes Hirsch. “My initial description a year ago would have been as simple as a tree in a corn field, but now I would describe it as a tree of life in its own realm.”
“I was never very good at slowing down but I am now. I’ve learned to see things differently. And I’ve embraced an incredible appreciation for the land in and around that tree.”
Since posting the first picture on Facebook, sharing the daily images was always a priority of the project. Hirsch created a dedicated Facebook page, which, at the time of this posting, has over 7,000 likes.
“I know that for many, my daily photo became almost devotional…” recalls Hirsch. “They waited anxiously and with tremendous appreciation for my visual interpretations of the scene. Their support was also very inspiring to me.”
On March 23, 2013, Hirsch took the last official pictures of the project, but he wasn’t alone. Almost 300 people (and 12 dogs) showed up for a group photo under the branches of that tree. Some devoted fans even drove in from Milwaukee, Chicago and northern Minnesota to be in the picture.
Now that the year has passed, Hirsch is developing his project into a book along with his friend and editor Warren Winter. The book will include photos from all 365 days of the year. “Every day of the project was important to someone,” adds Hirsch, remembering notes left on each photo about birthdays, anniversaries, or marking days that loved one passed on.
“It’s just fascinating to see how important Mark’s photos of That Tree have become to so many people,” writes Winter. “It’s extremely moving.”
Hirsh and Winter are finishing up putting the book together and plan to start shipping orders in mid-August. Copies of That Tree, an iPhone Photo Journal By Mark Hirsch can be pre-ordered here.
“As an avid outdoorsman, hiker, mountain biker, hunter and fisherman, I’ve always had tremendous respect for the land and the environment,” writes Hirsch. “Through appreciation for and enjoyment of my photographs and my project, my photographs have given a voice to That Tree and to other trees. Kind of a cool outcome for a project that was only intended to be a personal challenge.”
Day 111 July 12. Visiting from Henderson, CO, I had a fun time early this morning introducing Lora Kohnlein and her sons Duggan and Patrick to that tree. The boys and I climbed the tree, examined dozens of bugs and discussed the finer points of the video game angry birds. Thanks boys for inspiring me to see things like a kid again! #
Day 116 July 17, 2012. Clinging to its bark, an interesting resident of that tree and it's surrounding habitat glows in a shaft of sunlight. #
Day 122, July 23, 2012. With a dramatic summer sky, the sun sets behind That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 101, July 2, 2012. In a timed exposure captured on an iPhone 4S using the iPhone app SlowShutter, the flight paths of fireflies leave yellow brush strokes as they fly in and around That Tree at dusk. That Tree is an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI.#
Day 189, September 28, 2012. A colorful leaf on that tree is illuminated by the setting sun against a blue sky at dusk. #
Day 125, July 26. A lightning strike illuminates the sky silhouetting That Tree against a night sky. #
Day 137, August 7, 2012. I enjoyed the sunset tonight with my dog Magnum and That Tree, two of my favoritep photo subjects! That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 141, August 11, 2012. Deposing its next generation of potential trees, the hairy hulls of Bur Oak acorns lay in the grass after falling from That Tree. #
Day 148, August 18. The scourge of everything green, a Japanese Beetle feeds on the leaves of That Tree. That Tree is an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 63, May 25. The motion of grasses blowing in the wind at the base of an old Bur Oak are captured on the iPhone with the help of the camera app, slow shutter. #
Day 167, September 6, 2012. Heavy dew drops cling to the grass growing at the base of That Tree. #
Day 174, September 13, 2012. Glowing in its fall colors, a fallen leaf hangs suspended agains the textured bark of That Tree. #
Day 19, April 11, 2012. A waning moons hangs over That Tree as the first rays of sunrise paint it a blood red against the morning sky. I watched in awe as the sunlight painted its red light from the top down to the base of the tree for the first time. #
Day 200, October 9, 2012. In what is probably one of my last photographs of That Tree with corn still standing in the field, I wanted to make one last sunset photo before the harvest. #
Day 207, October 16. The dawn light casts a blue aura over fallen leaves littering the ground beneath that tree, an old Bur Oak surviving at the fringe of a cornfield in Southwestern, Wisconsin. #
Day 209, October 18, 2012. An ear of corn missed by the combine lays in a harvested cornfield with That Tree looming on the horizon. #
Day 210, October 19, 2012. Captured as it tumbled to the ground, fall winds strip the leaves from That Tree. #
Day 223, November 1, 2012. With That Tree silhouetted on the horizon, foxtail grasses are illuminated in the foreground by the setting sun. #
Day 228, November 6, 2012. That tree is reflected upside down in the heavy snowflakes melting on the window of my truck. #
Day 240, November 18, 2012. Hoarfrost encrusts cornstalks and a fallen leaf from That Tree where it rests in the picked cornfield. #
Day 239, November 17, 2012. The first light of day paints the field around That Tree with the golden glow of sunrise. #
Day 263, December 11, 2012. With snow clinging to its branches from an evening snowstorm, the first light of day paints That Tree with a crimson light against a cold blue sky. #
Day 344, March 2, 2013. Just before sunrise, a waning moon hangs in the morning sky framed by the gnarly branches of That Tree. #
Day 272, December 20, 2012. That Tree is nearly lost in the whiteout conditions as a blizzard deposits heavy snowfall on the midwest. #
Day 337, February 23, 2013. I found myself cradled in That Tree's enduring embrace for a delightfully lofty perspective! #
Day 302, January 19, 2013. I saw this while driving home from Madison last night and barely got to that tree in time to photograph it. A silhouette and a sunset may be cliche but it was too pretty not to share. #
Day 311, January 28, 2013. Unseasonal weather inspired a rapid thaw creating a small stream flowing through the waterway down the valley from That Tree. #
Day 320, February 6, 2013. Like a scene from the land of faery, that tree rises ethereal from the enchanted mists with hoarfrost encrusting the landscape! #
Day 323, February 9, 2013. Cast in the blue light of dawn, fresh snow clings to the trunk of That Tree. #
Day 349, March 7, 2013. The silent presence of a deer's journey, like mine, drawn to That Tree. #
Day 357, March 15, 2013. Uncovered by a spring thaw, dead grasses and a frosty fallen leaf from That Tree rest amidst a dark cover of undergrowth awaiting the break of dawn. Remnants revealed, like winter, soon departed. #
Day 349, March 6, 2013. Day 348. I had an incredible day. Seems fitting that it concluded with this glorious red sunset over That Tree! #
Day 4, May 11. Framed by a gnarly branch, the shadow of That Tree , an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. is cast onto an unpicked cornfield. #
Day 39, May 1. Staminate and semitransparent early growth leaves hang from a branch of That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 157, August 27. That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. is shrouded in an Autumn fog. #
Day 64, May 26. Eggs rest in a nest sheltered by leaves at the base of That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 69, May 31. An image captured after dusk of That Tree with the help of the iPhone camera app, Night Cap and some portable strobe lights. #
Day 71, June 2. The shadow of photographer Mark Hirsch is cast onto the trunk of That Tree. #
Day 193, October 2. That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. is framed by leaves glowing in the bright colors of fall. #
Day 60, May 22. The gnarly limbs of That Tree frame its trunk in the shape of a natural heart. #
Day 75, June 6. Dawn light creates an enchanted feeling as the moon sets beyond That Tree. #
Day 82, June 13. A farmer and tractor are silhouetted along side of That Tree while baling hay in the field next to an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. #
Day 9, April 1, 2012. Like a dart, a starling flies from its perch amidst the barren branches of That Tree. #
Day 99, June 30, 2012. Dramatic clouds hover over an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a cornfield near Platteville, WI. Despite the violent appearance of the cloudy storm front, not a drop of rain fell on the drought parched landscape. #
Day 119, July 20. A moth camouflaged by its wing patterns is hidden amidst the bark of That Tree. #
April 7, 2013. I enjoyed last nights sunset in the company of two dear friends, my dog Magnum and That Tree. #
Day 51, May 13. With new corn plants sprouting from the field, the sun sets behind That Tree, an ancient Bur Oak growing on the edge of a Wisconsin cornfield. Photographs from the iPhone photo a day project "That Tree", by Mark Hirsch of Mark Hirsch Photography #