Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Rare, Gorgeous Photos of Ancient Trees Around the Globe

Terri Likens
Heart of the Dragon/ Photo by Beth Moon  Photography
Heart of the Dragon/ Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Ancient trees cling to life against the odds and against the elements. They tower over us, tall and straight, or scrape and bow, massively twisting back to the earth in slow decline. Something about them stirs people to their core.

Beth Moon has made it her life’s work to document the most magnificent of these survivors of time and nature. She has traveled the globe for 14 years, seeking out and photographing the oldest and rarest of them.

Anka. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Anka. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Her pictures, collected into two books, are the next best thing to seeing the trees in person. In some cases, her stunning specialty prints may even be better. They are made with a labor-intensive duotone platinum and palladium process that yields otherworldly results. The pictures have an intense tonality and seem to glow with a light of their own.

Fornax. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Fornax. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Moon is Wisconsin-born. It was there her father instilled in her a love of nature, sharing with her the names of plants and animals that populated the landscape. Later, she studied fine arts at the University of Wisconsin.

Andromeda. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Andromeda. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Her photographic eye was honed by classes in painting, live drawing, design and sculpture. She moved to England, where she noticed the Brits embraced their rare old trees like old friends. Whole societies were dedicated to identifying and protecting the venerable yews in the British landscape.

Elanth. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Elanth. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

It was these ancient trees that inspired her to start photographing. Smitten, she began expanding her scope.

Since then, Moon’s work has taken her to some of the most remote places on the planet, including the interiors of South Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Madagascar.

The Ifaty Teapot. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

The Ifaty Teapot. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Her work was no hit-and-run job. She did painstaking research to not only find the biggest and oldest of these trees, but the often incredible stories behind them.

Bellatrix. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Bellatrix. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Her sources are history books, newspapers, tree registers and oral histories passed down through communities.

Corvus. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Corvus. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

In Great Britain, she found the Whittinghame Yew, a gnarled old tree under which a Scottish nobleman’s demise was planned. It is also the home of the Major Oak, where Robin Hood and his Merry Men were said to gather. In Cambodia, she found the latticed roots of a massive strangler fig clamped down around temple ruins.

Desert Rose Erher Beaach. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Desert Rose Erher Beaach. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Many of the trees are centuries old. A few are four- or five-thousand years old. Moon has learned patience from the trees. Once on site, she spends time studying them to decide on the best shot. Sometimes, just getting to a site takes patience.

Lacerta. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Lacerta. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

One case is a bit more extreme than others: It took her three years to get into Yemen-controlled land to photograph the giant dragon’s blood tree growing near the horn of Africa.

Lyra. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Lyra. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Sometimes she hires locals to find what she is looking for. While in Madagascar to shoot the unusual baobab trees, setting out by jeep with her guide, a whole village trailed them like a comet running behind.

Perseus. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

Perseus. Photo by Beth Moon Photography

The first of her two books was Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time. The second, done with slow exposures under night skies, is the dazzling Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees. In her own artistic statement, Moon talks about the meaning she finds in her work: “Standing as the earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is finding better ways to live with the environment.”

Read another story from us: Buttington Oak: Planted to mark a Viking defeat in 893 collapses after 1,000 years

Her work on Portraits of Time even got a nod from noted anthropologist Jane Goodall: “Beth Moon’s stunning images capture the power and mystery of the world’s remaining ancient trees. These hoary forest sentinels are among the oldest living things on the planet and it is desperately important that we do all in our power to ensure their survival. I want my grandchildren – and theirs – to know the wonder of such trees in life and not only from photographs of things long gone. Beth’s portraits will surely inspire many to help those working to save these magnificent trees.”


Terri Likens’ byline has appeared in newspapers around the world through The Associated Press. She has also done work for ABCNews, the BBC, and magazines that include High Country News, American Profile, and Plateau Journal. She lives just east of Nashville, Tenn.