with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Patterns in Nature: New Growth on Evergreens

End of a pine tree, new growth, photograph by Brent VanFossen

In the spring, while everyone is looking at the spring flowers, I’m looking at trees, running my hands over the feather softy new growth on the tips of the evergreen trees.

I love how dark green trees suddenly seem to flower with the light green “blooms” on their tips. Within a few months, this slippery and silky ends will become brittle hard and spiky, keeping shadow on its rough bark during the heat of summer, reaching out to catch any cooling breeze that passes by, then pushing away the weight of the snow on its branches in winter. Pine needles are part of the evergreen tree’s defense system.

I pointed out this new tree growth to my future husband, Brent VanFossen, while we were on a photographic field trip when he was still a student and I was the teacher. We were working on patterns in nature, specifically lines and shapes in the basic photography workshop, and this new tree growth was a perfect example of a tiny equiangular spiral, a pattern few people every notice until they get really close up.

Brent used his 200mm with an extension tube to get in really close, and bounced a little white bounce light from his diffuser/refector to fill in the shadows and make the spiral pop out. This was done, of course, on a stable tripod as a show shutter speed was required to get the maximum depth of field for the tiny end of the branch and needles.

All these many years later, this continues to be one of my favorite peaceful photographs. It’s simple and I never get tired of looking at it.

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