Birch Trees and Maples

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In the fall of 2008 I was extremely fortunate to be chosen as an artist-in-residence with the Glen Arbor Art Association. For two weeks I had the use of a cozy apartment while I explored the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and surrounds.

My wife, Joan, joined me for the weekend in the middle of my residency, and on a beautiful Sunday afternoon we decided to explore the area around Good Harbor Bay. I followed a two track off of a dirt road and discovered an enchanted clearing in the woods. An old orchard surrounded by a mature forest in full autumn regalia was returning to the wild. I spent a pleasant hour exploring its photographic potential.

Off to the side a grove of young birch trees was colonizing the clearing. I was struck by the contrast between the green leaves and white bark of the birch trees and the glowing red maples in the background.

As a young man I was much influenced by the art and architecture of minimalism. I knew the work of Mies van der Rohe, and was familiar with his aphorism “less is more.” In my own work I’m constantly trying to simplify my compositions—to boil my experience down to its essence. For me a successful composition includes only what is necessary and contains nothing I did not intend.

So as I composed the image to capture my experience of this lovely scene, I chose a telephoto lens to narrow my field of view. I framed the shot so it would include only the birch trees and maples and I placed the birch trees on the right so that the diagonal branches would lead your eyes to the upper left and the field of color created by the maples.

People have always commented that it is difficult to tell if my work is painting or photography. When printed on canvas this image particularly elicits that response. The individual leaves are so distinct it looks as though they were painted with a pallet knife.

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