Inspirations – Dark Places by Sean Bagshaw
Canon EOS 5D, 0.8 seconds @ f/25, ISO 100
This poplar tree farm is located on a lonely section of I-84 in northeastern Oregon and it stretches for miles. It’s one of those places that most people probably drive by on the freeway thinking, “that’s a big tree farm,” and then keep on going. I did for several years until I saw a haunting black and white image in a gallery that I suspected was taken there. That image inspired me to do a little exploring with my own camera the next time I was in the area.
The farm is private property, so I haven’t ever ventured into the trees themselves. Once I drove down a dirt road with a sign that said “office” to see if I could get permission to enter the property. After several miles of driving through a corridor of trees I never did see the office. Not wanting to be late to my final destination I decided to turn around. It’s just as well. Photographing from the adjacent road is what creates the sense of dark mystery and depth in the image anyway. The rows of trees located nearest the road are bathed in light from the road clearing. Exposing for that light causes the interior of the stand to fade into moody darkness and highlight the distant light at the end of the row. In addition, moving back from the trees made it possible to shoot with with a 70-200mm lens at 135mm, compressing the scene and making the trees appear even more dense than they are. Working with overall contrast and localized dodging and burning helped complete the effect.
I find the image disorienting and surreal. The order, repetition and lack of biodiversity look out of place in a forest environment where we expect randomness and variation. It feels like something out of a dark fairytale or future dystopia. Is this tree farm a vision of future “wilderness” under ever increasing human influence and management in nature? ~sean bagshaw