A Photographic Study of One Tree Over Many Years and Seasons

Last week we shared a project by photographer Tyler Casson that featured four photos of an island across four seasons of a year. Photographer Kevin Day has been doing a similar project — one that he has been working on for over five years now. The Berkshire, UK-based photographer has been visiting and documenting one particular tree in a field, snapping photos showing different seasons and different lighting conditions.

Day tells us that he gets excited when the colors of the scene change before his eyes at certain times of the day:

I noticed that when the sun rose directly behind the tree from my best viewpoint and the early morning mist lingered and the dissipated at just the right moment, I couldn’t take shots quick enough, the light was changing by the second and I could feel myself actually getting emotional and excited by taking photos of a dead tree!”

His work is a series that explores the changing versus the constant:

This wonderful old tree is unchanging over the years and yet I can take hundreds of photos of it during the seasons and very few of them look the same. It is all about the change around the constant.

Day’s advice for anyone interested in doing a similar project? Make sure you’re passionate about the subject you’re documenting, and over time you’ll start to see much more than you did when you started:

To shoot a series outdoors you need to be able to maintain an interest over a period of time, so make sure you enjoy the subject matter, and as I have said the most important/changeable factor is the light, so select a subject that looks at its best or comes alive when the light is at its most variable during the seasons – dawn or dusk. What I did enjoy about photographing the same subject over a prolonged period was that through repetition I discovered the best positions and angles for the shots so after a while I could concentrate more on getting the exposures to match what I wanted rather than concentrating on composition.

You can find the entire series with its nearly 200 photographs in this Flickr set.

My friend, the dead tree by Kevin Day (via Photojojo)

Image credits: Photographs by Kevin Day and used with permission

  • Joseph O. Holmes

    I really like that Kevin didn’t lock down the camera and make a time lapse out of this. Instead, each photo stands alone as the best capture of that tree at the moment.

  • ylem

    Beautiful photographs, Kevin. I’ve had a facination with trees my whole life. Trees can be so powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    These are okay. I just wish they were more consistent images. It bugs me that some are in landscape, some in portrait; some up close and some far away – I think they would be more effective as a series if the camera weren’t moved around all over the place

  • skipppppppy

    That’s a really cool tree.

  • Anthony Harrison


  • Greystation


  • Duke Shin

    I live in Texas. All the trees are dead.

  • Trent Chau

    Why not just look at the ones that are exactly the same? Ther’es enough there to make a book.

  • Dick

    Sick tree.

  • Mark N

    Lovely series. Could see adding to this collection with some night time shots – moonlit or with star trails. I bet it’s a nice feeling returning here each time.

  • Laurie

    Love this series just the way it is.

  • Russ Catalano

    You mean an ‘time-lapse’, Yeah, sorry, I’m tired of those things.

  • tyrohne

    Gorgeous. This tree will be missed when it’s gone. The landscape will have a hole for a while.

  • Namen

    it’s quite a well-executed project.

  • Dave


  • Ken

    I salute Kevin’s persistent looking, something I think relatively few photo enthusiasts do.

    I do, however, think that a more consistent locked-down format would have made the series more about the tree’s environment and less about Kevin. As sculptural as that dead tree might appear at times, following a live deciduous tree would also have been more interesting.

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Then take your own. You’re criticizing a dog for not being a cat,

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    no – not a time-lapse. I mean a series of images. A series you might display on the wall of a gallery.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    well yes – it’s criticism. Something that any photographer will experience, it’s not a bad thing.

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    “It’s not a time-laspe” is not criticism, it’s pointing out that a dog is not a cat.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I never said anything about a time-lapse in my comment… ?

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    No, you didn’t use the words “time-lapse,” you merely used the very definition of “time-lapse” (series of images where the camera doesn’t move) to say that the dog should be a cat.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I’m so glad that you’re in my head and that you know exactly what I meant – oh wait, you’re not and you’re completely wrong. The definition of a time-lapse is completely different to what I said. What I mean by a series of images is to mount one picture next to another and another side by side or in a grid formation on a wall. I don’t mean to connect them in a video, flash animation or .gif file to show the passage of time.

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    I’m so glad that you’re in Kevin Day’s head and that you know exactly what vision he was going for – oh wait, you’re not and you’re completely wrong to kvetch that he didn’t conform to your opinion of what he should’ve done.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    Did I say I knew what vision he was going for? no – I simply gave my opinion of his work. Something which I’m entitled to do given that his work is in a public forum. I don’t see what your problem is? do you think that people shouldn’t be allowed to criticise other people’s work?

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Your opinion is that his images are only “okay” because you have a vision for the work different from his, the artist’s. Yes, you’re entitled to your opinion that a dog is not a cat, just as I’m entitled to mock it. In fact, you could say that I’m just criticizing your criticism.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    you’re entitled to disagree with me – completely. But I haven’t just said that his work is s**t, I haven’t put the photographer down or insulted him/his work – anything like that and I would expect some backlash but I’ve merely stated that they could be more effective as a series of images if the composition were more consistent. The images ARE okay – so what? since when is “okay” a bad thing? projecting your own version of “okay” as “only okay” isn’t particularly fair. Am I supposed to be so creative with my adjectives that people don’t think I’m being an assh*le? would my criticism of his work be more valid if I had first emblazoned his work with words like “AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, STUNNING, FANTASTIC, WOW, OMG” or something to that effect? no. because that would be ridiculous.

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    That project you’ve been working on for five years? It’s alright, I totally would’ve done it better.

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    I think /not/ being locked-down helps give this project life and testament to his vision. He’s photographing the same tree from the same angle to produce a wide variety of images.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I didn’t say I would’ve done it better. I simply gave my opinion on the composition. It’s not even your work here and you seem quite butt hurt by the fact that I have a differing opinion. Jeez – I hope you never exhibit or publish work anywhere. If you do make sure to call the exhibit “don’t criticise my work or i’ll cry about it”

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Criticism is fine, but criticism because you want something different is being closed-minded. Criticize my photo of a dog because the lighting, the focus, the subject, the post-processing, the background, anything. Don’t criticize because it’s not a photo of a cat.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    Does composition not count in your list of lighting, focus, post-processing etc? I’m pretty sure composition is a fundamental as much as lighting and focus are? because my only criticism of this work was the composition…

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Sure, criticize the composition. Is “it’s not the same as this other photo’s composition” that insightful of a criticism?

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    it may or may not be insightful as all opinions are subjective but I think my criticism is constructive (again, subjective) – I thought the images would be more effective as a series if their composition were more consistent. It’s just something to think about – I’m trying to cause arguments or upset anyone – It’s perfectly fine that the guy has shot his images in the way that he has – I’m not objecting to that – he can do what he wants. I’m just giving my perspective on the images as a whole – how I’ve experienced his work. If you like them how they are then that’s fine – I’m not saying that you’re wrong.

  • Timoneer

    Beautiful Pictures. Amazing photos of the tree. The light, the color. My emotional response I had when looking through these was spectacular, moving. Extremely interesting. It would be interesting to see if these same photos, cropped so that the tree had the same position within the frame, would evoke such an emotional response.

  • Gary Martin

    Very nice

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Fine by me, I find Adam’s criticism to be like it came from a close-minded lemming. Wait a lemming is too cute of an analogy, he’s more of a mule. A self-righteous, stubborn mule.

    Seriously, he’s criticizing a “change around a constant” project for not being a “constant through change” project. He’s disparaging a dog because he likes cats better. How arrogant can one person be?

    I don’t get this internet meme of nitpicking everything to death, that’s why I’ve been signing as “Mona isn’t smiling enough”… maybe daVinci (which is not to equate Kevin Day to Leonardo) didn’t _want_ her smiling that much. Maybe that was the point. And maybe Day went with a non-consistent composition _for_a_reason_. But snootier than thou mules like Adam come around and _ignore_ the artist’s vision to sniff their dismissive little sniffs oblivious to any perspective other than their own. It’s that complete missing of the point that makes his trite suggestion so inapplicable to Day’s project. No, it wouldn’t have been more effective to do it Adam’s way because that would’ve emphasized _the_wrong_thing_. (To spell it out, besides being completely cliche, Adam’s way would’ve emphasized the “constant,” not the “change” that Day wanted to emphasized.)

    Here’s the thing, I’ve been in Adam’s place. I was giving advice to a budding young photographer once, great talent, idiot on the technical details. I mentioned that a shadow was too dark in a place you wouldn’t expect it (actually someone else made the comment, but I deserve the shame for thinking the same thing.) He replied that of course he could’ve gotten rid of that shadow with a reflector, but he _wanted_ that overly dark shadow there. It was like a light bulb. And of course, he was right, the dark shadow evoked a completely different feeling than if he had “properly” exposed it. If the artist made a conscience decision to make a work a certain way, it behooves us as critics to stop and think about _why_ that decision was made before spouting off some unthinking suggestion that revels how much we miss the artist’s point. Adam Cross’ insipid critique is _exactly_ what needs to be called out because it’s so ignorant and insulting to an artist’s work.

  • Jake

    This is absolutely one of the most comically ridiculous threads I’ve seen on this website – I’m actually laughing right now! Adam is clearly just trying to state his opinion and Mona is making ludicrous accusations about Adam and things that Adam didn’t even say. Keep this silly argument up guys!

  • Mona Isn’t Smiling Enough

    Your comment would be more effective if it was about something else. ;)