Luxury Edition (limited to 30 copies) £125 [sold out]
Special Edition (limited to 50 copies) £75
Standard Edition £40
Reviewed by Geoff Wittig
Trees are a subject of endless fascination for landscape photographers (and painters, for that matter). Much like people, from a distance they can seem to blend into a homogenous mass, yet up close each manifests its own distinct personality. Compared to, say, elusive wildlife or the constantly changing expressions on a human face, trees would seem at first blush to be an easy subject. They don't run away, and they patiently stand still for their portrait. Anyone who has tried it knows better, of course. The organic chaos of a forest can be remarkably difficult to wrestle into a meaningful or beautiful composition.
Dav Thomas is a landscape photographer and former graphic designer in England, and With Trees is his extended visual meditation on the subject. It's a beautiful book on multiple levels. It comes slipcased [only the Special and Luxury Editions have the slipcase —Ed.] with a subtle tree design imprinted on the case with varnish, visible only at an angle. The typography is very nice, using a clean but subtle slab-serif digital typeface for text and captions, with a more ornate ligatured italic for pull quotes. The photographic reproductions are as good as it gets these days, which means very good indeed. The colors range from vivid to subtle pastels. Most images are printed with decent margins; some are full-bleed on the right hand leaf, and a few are unfortunately printed across the gutter, though they seem to suffer less for it than photos in most books. A welcome inclusion is a set of technical notes on the photographs themselves, printed on a separate sheet, with thumbnails accompanied by the camera, lens and film (or sensor) used. The majority of the photographs were taken using a large format Chamonix camera, more often on print than transparency film, but some were captured with a Sony A900 and one with an i-Phone!
With Trees has an elegant foreword by David Ward, the well known and very accomplished British landscape photographer. Thomas provides a brief introduction and some comments, but overall the images stand on their own, and they are stronger for it. They explore the visual beauty of trees across all seasons and varying light, from subtle monochromes in fog to the rich colors of autumn, without ever crossing the border into garishness. Thomas consistently succeeds in organizing the complexity of a forest into coherent pictures that convey a particular moment or mood. From the portrait of a gnarled ancient oak to delicately hoar-frosted branches against a bright sky, the photographs are consistently lovely. They're a celebration of the quiet beauty to be found in the forests and nameless copses we drive past without noticing. I’m most reminded of Robert Glenn Ketchum’s work in his book The Hudson River and the Highlands, which is high praise indeed. With Trees leaves me itching to go out and take some forest photographs of my own. It's hard to ask for more from a landscape photography monograph.
There are a number of other books exploring somewhat similar ground. Sean Kernan’s Among Trees is still available. It's black and white rather than color, but conveys a similar moody and atmospheric vibe, and also presents a distilled personal vision. It's not in the same league in terms of reproduction quality or book arts, however. Ansel Adams: Trees contains a selection of familiar images with Little, Brown's customary elegant typography and beautiful photo reproductions. Lewis Blackwell's The Life and Love of Trees is also quite nice, but includes the work of multiple photographers rather than a single vision.
©2013 by Geoffrey Wittig, all rights reserved
Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Eric Brody: "Don't forget John Sexton's lovely book Listen to the Trees as well."V. Roma: "For those interested in tree photography, check out Benjamin Swett's New York City of Trees published earlier this year."