Inspirations – Dark Places by Sean Bagshaw

© 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


10 Responses to “Inspirations – Dark Places by Sean Bagshaw”

  1. Judy Windsor Says:

    Really love this photo. I would be interested also to know about the marks at the bottoms of all of the trees?

  2. Great image, my first thought was that it was a few trees, copied over and over. Such a cool looking image, I like repetitive patterns in nature.

  3. Wow, I love this shot! Reminds me of several dreams I have had… scary I know! Amazing mood and mystery!

  4. Judy – A quick answer to your question. I believe that the marks on the trunks are limb scars. When the trees are young I think they cut off the lower limbs to encourage upward growth and to make maintaining and harvesting the trees easier.

    • Judy Windsor Says:

      Thanks, that makes sense. I now keep thinking about the tree farm I passed so many times in Qualicum…:(

  5. “disorienting and surreal” for sure but also amazing and beautiful (at least for me).

  6. Great image. I really like that touch of green leading the eye down to the small point of light. Wonderful place!

  7. I traveled between Oregon and Montana quite a bit over the last few years and drove by this farm along the way. I always thought there was a great opportunity for some decent photos but was too lazy to stop. Thanks for stopping, Sean.

  8. I thought digital manipulation at first glance. Makes me wonder where I will get to if keeping walking straight. Amazing photo.

  9. As the other commenters have said, I love this. At first, the symmetry and the light, as well as that patch of green pleased me aesthetically. But the more I look at it the more disturbing the regularity becomes. Well captured and conceptualized!

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