In a series of dramatic images, San Francisco-based photographer Beth Moon captures some of the planet’s oldest living trees against a backdrop of twinkling evening skies in far-flung areas of southern Africa, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.
Trailing a foot guide for many hours across roadless terrain, the devoted photographer sought out inaccessible and uninhabited areas. Once Moon identified her ancient trees, she marked the area with a collection of small rocks, so she would be able to locate the exact spot when using only a torch at night.
The collection is called Diamond Nights, and these new photos were triggered by Moon’s curiosity of a few notable studies that seem to link starlight and cosmic radiation with the growth of trees. Diamond Nights is a development of Moon’s 15-year journey, documenting ancient trees around the globe.
She recently shared how she captures these natural monuments.
“The majority of these photographs were created during moonless nights, shot with a wide angle lens and ISO of 3200 – 6400. The Milky Way, a ribbon of stars that stretches from horizon to horizon burns brightly in some of the images. Exposures up to 30 seconds allowed enough light to enter the lens without noticeable star movement. Each location required a lot of experimenting. and different lighting techniques. Sometimes a short burst of diffused light from a flashlight was sufficient, or bounced light from multiple flashlights was used for a softer more natural glow.”
Her results are simply magical. Against starry nights, the ancient trees come into view like apparitions from a fairytale. The tranquility that surrounds them in these exotic places adds a mystical quality to the desolate natural surroundings depicted in the images. But the magical atmosphere is more than skin deep, since Diamond Nights explores a deeper connection as Moon explains. “Our relationship to the wild has always played an important role in my work. This series was inspired by two fascinating, scientific studies that connect tree growth with celestial movement and astral cycles.”
The first study determined that cosmic radiation influences tree growth even more than annual temperature or rainfall; the second claimed that tree buds change shape and size directly correlating to the planets and the moon. Quite strong assertions, all the more strengthening the theory that we are all made up of stars.
See Moon’s captivating Diamond Nights here.