Barkscapes


A tree's wood is also its memoir. ~Hope Jahren

As someone who lives with a chronic form of blood cancer, during my first course of treatments in 2016, I re-discovered my love of photography. A medium I had not focused on since my 20s. Photography was an ideal medium to take up again as I was constantly tired and could not concentrate. The fatigue from illness and treatments made it hard to have conversations. In most respects impossible to engage in my other creative outlets - writing, painting and design. During the time between treatments, when I felt well enough to travel, I would roam the forests of my new home in the Pacific Northwest just as I had as a boy growing up in rural Ohio. I could not walk for long. Only had a cell phone camera. Did not know what I was looking at. Didn't know how it all related.  Despite this, I was enraptured by the variety of trees and the land they called home. The world of things that lived on them and among them. Returning home, I would follow up these day trips by studying images and books about what I was seeing and the lands of my new home. As I learned more, I came to appreciate how each detail in those pictures could provide insights about an individual tree’s life. A life shaped over the centuries by the land, weather, water and their neighbors.

Each tree offers a biography of its life through signatures found in its growth. The color of the bark and underlying soft tissues can tell us about the land below as is the case with Alder, which can draw up and store elemental silver and gold in their bark and soft tissue. On the terrestrial level, bark and soft tissue tell us about the wildlife a tree shares their home with. Morse-code like dots mark the presence of a hungry sapsucker. Parallel teeth marks show the presence of elk. Deep furrows, a hungry bear. Between earth and sky, lichen and moss tell the story of prevailing winds, air quality and water cycles. As for the wood itself every twist, turn and sag in the trees bark and soft tissue forms a sentence in the biography of a trees’ life. A sag in the bark indicates the place where branches once formed. Top down for deciduous trees and bottom up for conifers. Open wounds tell the story of a glancing blow from the branch of a falling neighbor. When underlying tissues are revealed, the presence of bright wide growth patterns shows rapid spring growth. Dark sinuous patterns, the trees’ seasonal repose. Purplish blue smears, smoke stains condensed by rain or fog after a fire. A rainbow of color and deep striated furrows - a centuries long battle with decay and weathering.

The Barkscape series began with the first work featured here, Barkscape #1, Hoh Rainforest. As I continued treatment and set off on the long journey of recovery, I roamed the forests and gathered images of my new neighbors. As my understanding grew, I developed techniques and insights that helped me understand each biographical signature, and how those signatures also helped tell the story of the land the tree calls home. This period of work set me on a course working in forest conservation and, played a foundational role in subject and compositional choices I make today in the across the larger body of my work. It is my hope that the intimate portraits I have gathered will help viewers appreciate the unique ways trees communicate the details of their own lives. That those unique expressions will stir a deeper appreciation for the possibilities of life and the vital link between trees and our own well being.

*NOTE: Works in this series are only available for purchase via direct sale through Lance and his team. Please visit our Sales Page to begin a conversation on your favorite piece/s.


Barkscape #1, Hoh Rainforest

Barkscape #1, Hoh Rainforest

Taken on a frosty morning in the Hoh Rainforest, Barkscape #1, which I took with a Cell Phone, captures the cycles of death and regeneration in the Temperature Rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. The life of a cedar that has lived for centuries, died, and slowly decayed returuning minerals countless other trees will feed upon as well as fungus (the white domes), ferns, molds and mosses that will convert the remnants of a tree that lived and died centuries before this photo was taken. To see the life signature of the tree, the patterns of growth and regeneration set the stage for renewed interest in photography, and the complex lives of trees. The thrill of observing, coming to learn and being able to bear witness to the lives of these magnificent lifeforms.

Starting with Barkscape #1 taken in the Hoh Rainforest in December of 2016, as I healed, I was able to learn how to observe, read and appreciate the lives of my new neighbors. The unique stories each tree offers , a vital expression of their complex lives.

  • The Sculpture Garden

    The sinuous lines of growth of this Bristlecone Pine indicate the harsh environs for the tree that lives above 10,000 feet. Each twist was rendered over centuries as the tree growsn no more th 1/16 an inch a year.

  • Iron and Moss

    A wounded tree has become home for lichen (red/orange) and moss (light yellow green). Although the tree may appear a fatally wounded, such arrangements actually can provide the tree protection while it heals trading nutrients, storing water and providing a cushion against further damage.

  • Storm Cells

    A piece of Spruch driftwood has collectedly on the shore revealing its long plight in the water in the erosion lines and, its new life on land where algae, fungus and moss accelerate decay bringing the erosion into sharp relief. Such formations in driftwood are common making them prized, and therefore, illegal to collect in the Puget Sound.

  • Paperbark Maple

    A Paperbark Maple Tree located in the Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum. A botanical wonder of the Pacific Northwest, these trees tend to prefer higher elevations and shed bright copper like bark each spring as they grow.

Barkscape: Ancient Tension (Bristlecone Pine)

Growing a mere 1/16 of an inch a year and living to be between 3000 and 5000 years old on average, Bristlecone Pine are the oldest living things on earth. Taking into to the highlands during the last ice age, Bristlecone thrive above 10,000 ft where growing season is limited to 1/16 of an inch a year. Featuring fire retardant bark, rock hard wood, lateral roots that anchor them to the rocky ground where intense wind and storms toss them about, their waxy leaves can last 40 years and their cones take 3 years to mature. Pictured here, the growth rings representing a thousand years of growth; a five-inch wide branch that ever so slowly grew into the edge of burl, fixing the sun's light into a permanent record.⠀

Tree’s express their lives in a combination of visual and visceral statements created through growth, survival, adversity and their role as a member of complex societies.

  • Fossil Arc

    Formed when trees are covered by floods or volcanic eruptions---Petrified Wood is a prism of geologic light; each tree is cast in quartz with concentrations of iron, carbon and manganese giving the ancient tree its color. Pictured here, a tree in the Navajo Nation in modern day Northeast Arizona.

  • Tree Tooth

    The remnants of a downed tree where inner bark material has rotted out and the older, inner branch growth remains. Such finds are rare as they require a number of events to ever come to light including weather, animal who habitate in the downed tree, fungal infections that soften the heartwood and a bit of human help; an accidental cut mark.

  • Alder and Bear

    An alder tree in the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge tells the story of a recent visit by a bear. The trees, which take their bark color from ground minerals and can store precious metals in their tissue reveal a cacophony of color when struck by a bear looking for bugs or bark to eat.

  • Sycamore Hollow

    A tree hollow in a Sycamore Tree captures morning light above the Miami River Valley in Southwest Ohio. Such locations are a favorite spot of native Owl populations.

Barkscape:Sequoia Obscura #2

Barkscape: Sequoia Obscura #2

The Sequoia Obscura series documents the colorful inner and hidden lives of Coastal Redwood Trees. Each color here, represents moments in the trees life. Indigo and blues are fire scars and smoke stains. The greens are mosses. The white, lichen and molds. Yellows, the slow decay of fungus that worked for centuries to take hold as Redwood produce chemicals that resist fungus.

Every twist, turn and sag in the trees bark and soft tissue forms a sentence in the biography of trees’ growth

  • Birch Scroll

    A sheaf of Birch Bark has separated from body of the tree as the inner wood rapidly decays and the bark dries out and is weathered while trying to maintaining the tension of shapes it held when alive.

  • Branchscar

    Located high above the Pacific Ocean, Mt Palomar is home to one of the most southerly groves of Madrone in the US. A conifer, the Madrone sheds its skin in bright red sheafs year over year revealing yellow, pale and white skin like that shown here. A vigorous tree, Madrone drop and seal branch scars like this at a rapid rate.

  • Puzzles

    A hand sized chunk of Ponderosa Pine bark reveals the layers of the trees life in the volcanic scablands of Washington. Ponderosa Pine bark is uniquely adapted to resist fire, afford the heatwood protection from animals and help fight off disease. Pieces like this are common in groves near the end of the season when he trees store up water.

  • Grove of (M)Patriach

    A down spruce tree in the Grove of the Patriarchs at the foot of Mt Raineir reveals nuanced layers of branch growth and the complex weathering of the wood where upwards of 90 feet of rain and snow fall each year.

Barkscape: Vernal Lines

Vernal Lines

Peeling bark on a Yellow Birch in Washington Park Arboretum in spring reveals damage and signals of new growth. The trees, which are known linear lenticels, breathe through the lines that form just beneath the skin and can be harvested for medicine or even clothing.

Bark and soft tissue tell us about the wildlife the tree shares its home with. Morse-code like dots mark the presence of a hungry sapsucker. Parallel teeth marks show the presence of elk.

  • Sapsucker Path

    The path of a hungry pecking Sapsucker bird is left in the face of a cedar tree in the Olympic Rainforest. A never ending battle, the birds seek food while the trees bulk up their bodies to prevent feeding plots to become host to infection.

  • Pando Sags

    A sag near the trunk of branch of the Pando trees shows times of growth and rapid divergence for the 106 acre giant. Sag formations are formed when branches grow, or, in this case, when the tree grows rapidly then falls in to repose.

  • In Motion

    A nurse tree, which is a tree that seeds and takes root in the remains of another. Pictured here, in the Carbon River Rainforest, a downed tree (moving right out of the frame) has given a fertile bed for new life to set up. On human time scales, it appears nothing is happening, but each twist and bend of the fallen parent and the new tree, reveal both tactical and strategic patterns of growth that match the tree the nurse tree falls, sinks, decays and opens up new paths for the seedling to set roots and grow.

  • Inner Burl

    A finger of wood remains in the rotted out core of a Spruce burl on the Olympic Coasts. The burls, which can reach five feet in circumference are prolific in theis section of the Olympic Coast. Their purpose is debated, arguably, they deflect the 100 MPH winds and salty air.

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