“Trees” – the subject of a photographic competition challenge, started the cogs in my brain whirling. Where could I find that one brilliant tree shot?Where could I find that unique tree – a tree that wasn’t well known to the photography world? I didn’t want to shoot a tree that had been shot so many times before. For days I walked around my village, searching for that special tree. I drove around for miles in my car, constantly stopping to take a look at trees by the river, trees on the university campus and even trees in the beautiful grounds of Bishopthorpe Crematorium. I love trees, so was not tiring of this specific challenge, in fact I was enjoying the task enormously. It is one of many challenging specifications to be given out over the coming months. I found a stunning example of a glorious fir tree, lit with it’s very own ‘candles’ in the Crematorium gardens, but no matter where I placed my tripod I just couldn’t find that perfect image. The lighting just wasn’t right.

During that month I visited Moorlands Nature Reserve, a few miles north of York. Moorlands is a small Edwardian woodland garden, part of the ancient Forest of Galtres, with free entry and managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. I saw the most stunning Rhododendrons and Azaleas and the tree species with their fabulous colours, together with the tranquillity of the place, had charmed Nicola. At the time she had commented that it was such a beautiful, relaxing place, and one that she wished she could remain longer in; however I was chomping at the bit to get back home to watch the football match and, again, the light had not been at all good! I set up a few mock shots on my IPhone XS having thought that I could return to possibly find something for the competition there if I was not to find my tree elsewhere.

I highly recommend a visit to Moorlands at any time of the year, but especially in May to July when the Rhododendrons and Azaelias are flowering and there are other wonderful spring plant species to see.The days came and went so rapidly, with the competition deadline now looming, and I still hadn’t been successful in finding a great tree, a tree which excited me enough to submit as my competition entry.On the final day deadline, frustrated, but not defeated and after having had another search for a thrilling tree shot and not finding anything suitable, I decided to go back to Moorlands for a blue hour shoot.

When I arrived at the woods with my fiancé, she suddenly surprised me by saying that she couldn’t go into the woods as it was too dark. Even though I thought that this was my final chance of my tree photo I was sympathetic to how Nicola was feeling and told her I wouldn’t enter this month’s competition as I had almost run out of time and that we would journey home. I did, however, comment that I had noticed a monster of a Willow Tree – we had driven through a village to get to Moorlands. I said we would drive home that way. Desperately knowing this was my last chance and the evening was drawing on, I quickly turned the car round and drove off with my mapping system leading me directly to my desired destination. Over these past months I have discovered something in me that won’t let me put my camera down until I have achieved what I set out to do and to do that at the very best of my ability as an amateur photographer. It is persistence and enthusiasm that drives me to spend the hours I do out and about taking photographs – it’s also a period in your life when you need a patient partner and I think Nicola had it in mind that I may ask her if we could stop at the pond and not go directly home! That is exactly what I did.

Right there! In front of me, in all its glory, stood the huge Willow tree, dwarfing everything around it, the houses, the pedestrians, the cars and the noisy, inquisitive, birds around the pond. The Willow tree made me feel that there was some hope.In and around the pond there were Mallard ducks and their numerous offspring and they scattered when I approached the Willow upon realising I had no bread to feed them. It was at that point that I spotted two beady eyed Greylag Geese who had decided to follow me closely. They were guarding their goslings and I realised I had to be careful in my movements with my camera gear so as not to get a nasty peck! The issues we camera enthusiasts have to endure are numerous!Right from the start, has encouraged me to find the best composition. At this stage, after having paced around the Willow’s exterior, I felt rather disheartened with the monster tree, be it such a stalwart, looking like an Emperor in its magnificent coat of full foliage and so imposing in stature, a giant, for sure. I got down, on my back, amongst all the fowl droppings – another hazard! Nicola uttered her slight disgust from a distance that I would be covered in the stuff. I gazed up into the dizzy heights of that almighty tree. There it was! My perfect shot! From this magnificent beast of a tree! I shouted over to Nicola, who was now sitting on a bench, watching me patiently. I exclaimed “This is it! After all my searching! This is it!!!” “I’ve finally found my subject!” …I set up my tripod with the Canon EOS Mark IV attached, remotely connected to my mobile and shot several photos. The selected photograph for the “Tree Challenge” was taken just in time at 9.50pm as the “Blue Hour” was coming to a close.I was so happy. I now had two hours to get home to submit my photo and the race truly was on!Adjustments were made in Lightroom Classic and the selected image was processed to black and white, as it looked more stunning that way.

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    Absolutely beautiful.
    Can’t stop looking at it!
    What a tree-mendous tree you found!
    And photographed with such skill, wow.

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