Populus Tremuloides. The scientific name of my favorite species of tree. Populus Tremuloides certainly does not roll of the tongue like its more commonly known identification of ‘Aspen’ tree does. Aspen’s are probably my favorite photography subjects. Not only is this deciduous tree regal in its appearance and symmetry but even the name sounds cool. The name has become popular enough to grace one of Colorado’s most famous ski towns, and even now is a popular pet name.
While Colorado is world renown for its large Aspen groves, Rocky Mountain National Park does not play host to large stands of Aspen trees. There are plenty of Aspen trees present in Rocky Mountain National Park, they just tend to congregate in smaller groves and sizes. Rocky gets less precipitation than some of the central areas of Colorado that are host to some of the larger Aspen groves. Furthermore, the large Elk population takes its toll on the trees using them as a food source during the long winter months by chewing on the Aspen bark and smaller off shoots. While this may make photographing Aspen trees in Rocky Mountain National Park less than ideal, there are ample opportunities to use the Aspen trees of Rocky as photographic subject matter.
Aspen trees have a very unique look and feel to them. Aspen trees send out off shoots from the main tree which produces additional clone like off shoots. These off shoots grow very close to the original tree and are attain similar sizes and attributes. This is why one does not typically find Aspen trees growing alone. The clone off shoots clump together around the main tree which helps to create the unique patterns and shapes of the Aspen boles that make every colony different and unique while at the same time achieving a level of symmetry that makes them so photogenic.
Photographing Aspen trees can be quite rewarding but I also find it very challenging to compose coherent images without to many distractions in the scene. There are thousands of different ways to approach photographing the subject. Do you want to shoot one bole?, the entire grove?, looking up?, looking down?, backlit?, in shade?, and so on. I personally prefer to photograph Aspen trees under diffused cloudy light. Diffused, even light allows one to capture the detail in the bark as well as to allow one to move freely through the scene without having to worry about where the sun is located as well as to avoid harsh lighting. Shooting a coherent, clean Aspen image requires thought and some trial and error. It’s important to narrow down the scene, organize clutter and remove distracting objects and try to avoid converging lines. You need to take the chaos that is Mother Nature and organize the scene in a manner that helps to create a cohesive and compelling image. Practice makes perfect, and I have yet to find conditions where one cant practice making compelling images of Aspen trees.