Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dead trees

with 26 comments

On November 1st we were heading north from Kerrville on TX 16 when I caught a glimpse of a solitary dead tree and went back to check it out. Once there, I looked in the opposite direction and noticed other dead trees that leaned in strange directions. They reminded me of scragglier and therefore pictorially more interesting dead trees that had fascinated me at Mesa Verde in 2014.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2019 at 4:41 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

26 Responses

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  1. It’s high time dead trees got their due.

    Steve Gingold

    November 27, 2019 at 5:02 AM

    • I’m always willing to give dead trees their due, at least if I find them photogenic. In the second picture a barbed-wire fence kept me from getting closer and trying for a composition that excluded the green of the living Ashe juniper beyond the dead trunks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2019 at 7:53 AM

  2. I agree with the comment above. Dead trees are a fascinating topic for the photographer. They have been attracting me for quite a long time.

    Peter Klopp

    November 27, 2019 at 7:43 AM

  3. Intriguing~growing in a clump like that makes me wonder if it used to be a cottonwood colony.


    November 27, 2019 at 9:18 AM

  4. To the degree that it is admired, it is still alive in some sense. I love the stark contrast with the sky.

    Michael Scandling

    November 27, 2019 at 10:19 AM

    • I like your take on something dead being admired and therefore still alive in some sense. The contrast between this dark, dead tree and the pleasant clouds is what compelled me to turn around and go back.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2019 at 1:40 PM

      • And the tree will thus be all the more alive.

        Michael Scandling

        November 27, 2019 at 1:42 PM

        • You’ve reminded me of the closing couplet in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XVIII”:

          So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
          So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

          How about a little rewrite, even if it messes up the iambic pentameter:

          So long as men can breathe, or cameras can see,
          So long lives this, and this gives life to the tree.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 27, 2019 at 1:49 PM

          • Eliminate the second can in the first line and the second this in the second line.

            Michael Scandling

            November 27, 2019 at 2:01 PM

            • That fixes the first line. The last line would have the right number of syllables but the meter still gets messed up in the second half due to the pesky “the.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 27, 2019 at 5:18 PM

              • What about removing “the” and making tree plural?

                Michael Scandling

                November 27, 2019 at 5:38 PM

                • I’d thought about “trees” to eliminate the unwanted “the,” but then “see” and “trees” don’t quite rhyme. We may just have to stick with the Bard.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 27, 2019 at 5:42 PM

  5. I love dead trees! They’re beautiful in their stark nakedness. I have photographed many of the dead cottonwoods along the Washita River near here. Some have fallen over the years, and I find myself photographing them as they decompose. They seem to support another life in that state too, which can make for interesting color, texture and patterns.


    November 27, 2019 at 3:53 PM

    • What you’ve said so enthusiastically makes you a member in good standing of the Dead Trees Society, or better yet an officer in the group. Even dead trees go through stages, helped along by wind and sun and frost and gravity and rain and insects and fungi, and no doubt other elements as well. As you pointed out, dead trees become ready subjects for nature photographers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2019 at 5:24 PM

  6. Someone must tell Treebeard that we have found the Entwives and it isn’t good.

    When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
    When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
    When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
    I’ll look for thee, and call to thee; I’ll come to thee again!

    When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
    When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
    I’ll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
    Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!

    From: The Ent and the Entwife – J.R.R. Tolkien

    Your image today was fodder for my imagination and brought to mind a poem from one of my favorite tales.


    November 28, 2019 at 9:24 AM

    • That’s quite an effusive comment. It certainly shows your fondness for Tolkien,

      of whom I know and yet have never read.

      The lines you quoted, two measures longer than those by Shakespeare in my reply to Michael, are in iambic heptameter. Hept hept, hooray!

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2019 at 12:16 PM

      • If you ever decide to read Tolkien, then start with the Lord of the Rings. If you decide you like it then go back and read the Hobbit. The Hobbit was written for children, but does provide some interesting background to the LOTR. You never know, you could enjoy him. Or not. 🙂 I won’t tell you how many times I have read the series, but I will tell you that each time I go back it is like reading it for the first time. I’ll stop for now, don’t want to be too effusive this time too.


        November 28, 2019 at 5:45 PM

        • Nothing wrong with being effusive, my friend. It’s clear you found books that resonate with you. After we returned from our New Zealand trips, probably the question we most often got asked was whether we visited the sites where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. Neither Eve nor I had read the books, so we didn’t go to visit the movie sets.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 29, 2019 at 9:47 AM

  7. The dead tree shown against the sky bears a pleasing resemblance to a driftwood snag seen against the ocean. As for the second, there’s something about it that doesn’t seem quite natural. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I sense a human hand behind their arrangement. In any even, I certainly can imagine that Ashe juniper singing “Don’t Fence Me In.”

    How about this, despite the slight tense change?

    So long as men can breathe, or cameras see,
    So long lives this, life giv’n to tree.


    November 28, 2019 at 9:56 AM

    • Far from the ocean in central Texas, I was lucky that

      the tree had drifted high enough against the sky
      to snag my glance as I went driving by.

      If only I’d also been able to sing a verse from “Don’t Fence Me In” to make the barbed wires disappear so I could have gotten pictures from other positions. I took the live oak trunks to be a natural grove, but you may be right about a landowner having intervened.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2019 at 12:30 PM

  8. Dead tree trunks are poignant yet alluring reminders of the impermanence of life, not unlike a collection of bones in an ossuary.


    December 3, 2019 at 10:11 PM

    • That’s a good comparison. “Alluring” rightly describes the effect those dead trees had on this photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2019 at 10:21 PM

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