The making of Golem exemplifies the bumpersticker wisdom, “People plan, the gods laughs…just wing it!” My vision and planning, while essential to the process, had little in common with this final image.
This venerable Monterey Cypress overlooks the famous Cliff House at the western edge of San Francisco. I loved this stout fellow the first time I set eyes on him, have photographed him many times over years, for both TreeSpirit and non-TreeSpirit portraits. (I’ve placed trees prominently in photographs long before TreeSpirit sprang into being.)
Toward the end of a 3-hour long shoot that began in the morning, working with this one man, John, and one tree, the coastal fog of San Francisco suddenly rolled in, completely changing the light and the mood. I hurried John into a completely different place on the tree where I could get much closer, with a wider lens, so I could see through the rapidly thickening mist.
And then the magic happened and we were ready for it: shafts of sunlight pierced through, “God rays,” “angel slides” are some people and photographers call them. Our hours-long investment boiled down to two minutes of an atmospheric mix of sun and airborne water — and then it all turned opaque gray. The shoot was over.
Some trees, like this cypress, continue calling to me. One tree, especially for me bigger, older ones, are as complex, multifaceted, and chimerical as this morning’s weather. I can make photographs of one on different days, in different seasons, in different light, from different angles, with different lenses, and each will look like it was made with a different tree.