One photographer's 14-year quest to capture the world's most interesting trees

The World
Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar

Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar.

Courtesy of Beth Moon

Growing up in the United Kingdom, photographer Beth Moon was surrounded by trees.

"I had a special connection with them and I used to play in them as a child," she recalls. So when Moon first picked up a camera in 1999 and started taking photos, trees were a natural subject.

One particular oak — called the Bowthorpe Oak, in England's Lincolnshire — helped kick-start Moon's 14-year photographic project on trees.

She was surprised to learn the oak had lost a major part of its branch after a violent storm. That's when the idea hit her: She should try and capture as many of world's ancient trees as possible before they disappeared.

Heart of the Dragon in Yemen

Heart of the Dragon in Yemen.


Courtesy of Beth Moon

After word got out about her project, people from all over the world began sending Moon tips on which trees to photograph. She took those ideas and added her own research to find trees with significant histories or interesting stories behind them.

The project has taken her to far-flung places like Madagascar and the island of Socotra, off the Horn of Africa. Moon also went to Yemen, where she captured the Dragon's blood trees.

"It looks like an umbrella blown inside out, and has a scarlet-colored resin from which it gets its name," Moon says. The resin is used to make dyes and medicines.

Moon also develops her photos using a 19th century method called the platinum process. It's labor-intensive, but it gives the photos their unique tones. "You get a sense that the metal goes into the paper and becomes part of the picture as opposed to just sitting on top of it," she explains.

The Yews of Wakehurst in England

The Yews of Wakehurst in England.


Courtesy of Beth Moon

By photographing these rare and ancient trees, her hope is to raise awareness about the beauty and fragility of nature.

Moon recently found out about research that correlates tree growth with star light. So for her next project, Moon will focus on photographing trees under the night sky. She's already taken the first couple of photos in that series, and ending up sleeping under the trees in Yemen. "That was a huge treat," she says.

Moon's photos are published in a book called "Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time," which came out last September.

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