capturing the spirit

Stained glass tree branches

The weather in the West of Ireland could best be described as mercurial today. As I type the wind whips the trees in my back garden and stampedes piebald clouds. A sudden, violent deluge of rain has just ended. Looking out a window at the front of my house I see sunlight streaming through an aquamarine scrap of sky. It’s a day of squalls and sun linked by rainbows.

Earlier, I found one of those favourable, magical periods in between the cloudbursts to walk my dog in the woods. As usual I was taking photographs. As much as I love woodlands they are one of the most difficult landscapes to photograph. Often, the photographs seem rather boring, or too dispersed in subject, and never properly evoke the sense of connection I experience in the woods. It’s a very tricky thing to capture the spirit of a place.

Yet, today from the first moment the woods were lively. It was like being on a photo shoot where the models are all stunning and hitting each pose perfectly every time. If this had been Ireland’s Next Top Tree Model I would have been in a quandary as to which one to choose.

This is the photo that looks best at this size. I love the latticework of branches, the colours in between and the shadows they throw upon the earth. Most importantly, the tree has character, and watches the path to the golden meadow beyond.

Yet, the photograph has most power for me because I was there, watching the sunlight glance across wet writhing leaves, listening to the trees sway and sing of the end of summer, and there is little else I can do to impart that moment of beauty truly to anyone else.

There is just the image, and a scattering of words.


  • Paul

    I’m with you on this Maura.

    For me there’s a sensation when walking through a sunlit wood that the thing is one big organism, and the branches and bark wraps around like age-old arms of a distant relative. When light strikes the canopy it’s filtered, played with and disseminated to us at the discretion of these knowing beasts, for the trees seem often like very slow animals to me.

    I went walking with my family through the countryside of Suffolk a few months back and we came across a stretch of sunken track between two hedgerows called “Dead Man’s Lane”. Despite the day being sunny, it was an ancient, seldom trodden half-lit passage of sticks, earth and motes in the air and had an electric presence about it.

    My three year old niece pointed to some small holes under some roots and informed me that that was where the faeries lived. As we walked on towards the light and the open fields, I kept glancing back, hoping to see the glimpse of hidden eyes or a flicker of miniature dark old wings.

    • Maura

      I often experience the woods as a holistic organism, made up of sun, wind, trees, insects, birds and animals. It has its moods and secrets. It changes depending on the seasons, and it absolutely contains elements of mystery.

      Thanks for sharing your memory! 😀

%d bloggers like this: