“Horses Grazing Beneath a Giant” by Robin Conover Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF 24–70 mm, 2.8 L lens at 42mm ISO 320, fl11 at 1/50th second, handheld
Recently I left my house just after sunrise on a foggy, wintry day to drive to East Tennessee for a photography shoot. I hadn’t been on the road more than 20 minutes when I drove by one of my favorite trees.
To be honest, I’ve seen it a thousand times but never stopped. Maybe it was because it’s familiar and close to home or because I’ve always been in a hurry to either get somewhere or to get back to the house, but I’d pass it by, thinking, “I need to stop and photograph that sometime.”
On this particular day, I glanced quickly as I drove by and knew I had to turn around. I couldn’t pass up this trifecta of horses, fog and the majestic profile of the tree.
Pulling over in a safe spot, I grabbed my camera, hoping the horses wouldn’t pay me any attention as I approached the fence. A couple raised their heads to look my way but were unconcerned and quickly ignored me.
The fog diffused the clutter in the background, making the tree stand out perfectly and defining the shape of every limb and twig. The diffused light and monochromatic pallette added to the feeling of stillness and simplicity.
Though they were several yards behind the tree, the horses added scale and balance to the image. Using the rule of thirds to begin composing the shot, I framed the tree as the main subject as far to the right as I could without cutting off any limbs. Then I placed the horizon in the bottom third of the frame. I shot several frames, walking up and down the fence row, and settled on this one.
This spring, I plan to go back to positively identify the tree. I believe it’s an oak, but I want to figure out which type and ask neighbors if they know any of its history.
The tree is near Long Hollow Pike in Sumner County, a route long hunters and pioneers have traveled since the 1780s and Native Americans long before. While I doubt this tree has seen 240 years, it has certainly survived many decades in this field by itself.
It’s a bit of a miracle that this massive centenarian grew from one tiny nut, most likely an acorn. It’s a gift to experience it every season. With the turmoil we have all experienced in recent months, I welcomed the solitude of this morning and the comfort this moment gave me.