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In retrospect: Sylva

March 13, 2014

Gabriel Hemery

An article by Gabriel Hemery celebrating the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn’s 1664 Sylva has been published in the international weekly journal of science Nature. From Gabriel Hemery’s blog:

Gabriel Hemery

My article celebrating the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn’s 1664 Sylva has been published in the international weekly journal of science Nature.

Read the article here

Hemery, G (2014) In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a

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In retrospect: Sylva

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Hemery, In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a

Hemery, In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a

Hemery, In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a

My article celebrating the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn’s 1664 Sylva has been published in the international weekly journal of science Nature.

Read the article here

Hemery, G (2014) In retrospect: Sylva. Nature, 507, 166–167, (13 March 2014), doi:10.1038/507166a

Visit to a forest of the future

April 13, 2013

Gabriel Hemery

There remain many botanical parts of trees to be drawn and a few whole trees to be depicted by Sarah Simblet, yet a forest visited this week by the authors will be one of the last whole treescapes to feature in The New Sylva.

The authors visited Brechfa Forest Gardens near Abergorlech in Carmarthenshire. During the 1950s and 60s some 90 different potentially productive forest tree species were planted there by the Forestry Commission to study how they would survive and grow, and whether they would be productive. Whilst some have failed completely, others are thriving in the moist atmosphere of this sheltered Welsh valley.

The study visit was made as part of our research for the final chapter of The New Sylva, which is looking to the future. We were particularly interested in a stand of sugi or Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and were delighted to find it not only thriving and in good health, but growing in a beautiful part of the valley near to the babbling River Gorlech.

Sarah Simblet at work on a drawing for The New Sylva at Brechfa Forest Gardens

Sarah Simblet at work on a drawing for The New Sylva at Brechfa Forest Gardens

Sarah found a comfortable seat on a riverside rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) opposite the stand of futuristic sugi which towered above at 27m tall.

We are very grateful to local arboriculturist David Rice for his support, and to Forestry Commission Wales (now Natural Resources Wales).

Drawing a venerable ash

March 16, 2013

Gabriel Hemery

Regular readers will know that the authors have been searching for the best example of a venerable ash tree in Britain to feature in The New Sylva (read the story).

Yesterday we visited the chosen ash tree. It is growing in the ancient deer park at Moccas in Herefordshire, among dozens of other ancient oak and sweet chestnut trees. The site is owned by the Baunton Trust and managed by Natural England – please note that access is granted by permit only.

The ash tree at Moccas is an indeterminable age but certainly over 500 years old – unusually old for ash that does not have the longevity of oak or sweet chestnut. Its girth measures over 8m, and its huge bole is riddled with hollows and bulbous knolls hiding the stumps of long-lost branches. While the old crown has retrenched, a classic symptom of a veteran tree, several rapidly-growing new stems have arisen to ensure a healthy living crown.

Sarah Simblet working on the composition of the venerable ash tree for the frontispiece

Sarah Simblet working on the composition of the venerable ash tree for The New Sylva

Sarah Simblet had to work in the rain, which dampened the paper and softened the pencils she used to develop the composition. She made the most of the conditions by creating a drawing with bold lines to capture the features of the tree; treating the drawing as a first draft. Back at the studio she will start a new drawing based on this composition, working first in pencil before applying ink.

Sarah Simblet drawing in pencil

Sarah Simblet drawing in pencil, working on the ash tree drawing

If Sarah is happy with the final drawing, and if the Editorial team at Bloomsbury think it appropriate, then it may appear as the frontispiece. Given the danger facing the species in Britain, from ash dieback Chalara fraxinea, we thought it particularly appropriate that the species be given this prominence in the book.

The authors are very grateful for the support and permissions granted by the Trustees of the Baunton Trust, and to Katherine Owen for submitting the tree as the candidate.

Trees are in our blood

July 4, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt, explains why he thinks it is that we love our forests and trees so much we are willing to fight to protect them. Watch the film.

Summer storm

Gallery
Blackbird and summer storm

We’ve had some really stormy summer weather in the UK over the last week or so. Unlike those intrepid fauna nature photographers, us plant photographers are normally lulled into a false sense of smugness that our subjects stay still long enough to allow us to frame every shot taking all the time we need. Wind however is a game changer.

I have written before about photographing trees in the wind. In that post I explained, perhaps counter-intuitively, how using a long exposure on windy days can create interesting results – read the post here. This weekend I came across some wonderful old farm buildings and the contrast of their rusty corrugated iron with the stormy sky was compelling, and both provided great features to some images I wanted to capture of elder Sambucus nigra.

I came to this first elder because it was sheltered from the wind by the building. I liked the perspective offered by its dark empty windows and how they led to the elder as the focal point in the image. The roll of fence netting in the foreground offered some interest without detracting from the main subject on the middle distance. The ash tree far left provided a helpful sense of perspective. I wasn’t sure about the powerlines overhead. I was in two minds  whether they added some sense of the industrial or whether they detracted – what do you think?  I suppose I could remove them in Photoshop but that’s not my style.

Elder and farm building

Elder and farm building. Lumix G3, 16mm (32mm in 35mm format), f11, 1/40sec, ISO160, polariser filter, tripod.

I resorted to a long exposure times for this second photograph (below), wanting to contrast the movement in the plants with the rigid structure of the collapsed old farm buildings. I aimed to accentuate how much the vegetation was moving in the wind by increasing the exposure time (using a slow shutter speed). I used a neutral density filter (x8) to reduce the light entering the lens; meaning that I could use a longer exposure time. I also added a polariser filter to further increase exposure, with the added benefit that this enhanced the stormy clouds. Lastly I set my film speed to the lowest on my camera (ISO160) and my aperture to the smallest (f22); both with a view to increasing exposure time. With all these steps the correct exposure in the bright summer light was 0.6 seconds; just enough to really capture the swaying trees in the background and the moving grass in the foreground. Naturally I used a tripod (Benbo Trekker) and cable release. I fired off lots of shots, waiting to coincide them with the strongest gusts. For just one frame I was in luck when a blackbird perched atop the elder that was my main interest, providing a great focal point in the image.

Blackbird and summer storm

Blackbird and summer storm. Lumix G3, 42mm (84mm in 35mm format), f22, 0.6sec, ISO160, NDx8 filter, polariser filter, tripod.

I’ve included both these pictures at twice the size I normally upload as their detail is better to explore at this size.  Both were captured as RAW format and processed using Adobe Lightroom.

Gabriel Hemery

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