Christopher Burkett (b. 1951)

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Christopher Burkett - Yellow Maple, Forest and Light, Virginia border=
Title:
Yellow Maple, Forest and Light, Virginia
Date:
1991
Size:
40 x 30 inches
Medium:
Cibachrome Photograph
 
Here's what Christopher Burkett says about this image:

The hardwood forests of Virginia are phenomenal. The many species of trees, with their highly varied shapes and colors, in the setting of unique, rugged mountainous terrain, combine to make some of the most beautiful forests in the world.

I try to photograph every autumn, and within that one or two month period there will often be one or two days of perfect weather. Some years there will be none at all—and others will come an hour at a time. Perfect photographing weather means perfect light for the subject, and the desired effect, and most especially—no wind. Wind is the bane of every large-format photographer. Most exposures are in the one to twenty second range, and even the slightest motion of leaves and branches can destroy sharpness and the crisp definition of details.

This photograph was taken with those perfect conditions. There was not even the slightest hint of wind—one of those rare times when nature seems to be holding her breath. The sunlight was beginning to burn through a light-to-medium thick cloud layer, and gave a soft glow to the scene—a glow which was reflected and amplified by the forest.

In the hardwood Appalachian forests, there is often a wonderful and unique quality of light—one of the qualities which define this beautiful area. The light bounces off of the hillsides of tree trunks, leaves and foliage and holds within itself delicate pastel shades. These shades range from pastel lavender and violets through a whole gamet of golden, amber tones.

This image is exceptionally difficult to print. So much so that, while it was photographed in 1989, it was not until 1995 that I was able to make a satisfactory print. This delicate image requires a huge amount of finesse—in exact contrast and tone reproduction, precise color balance, and finesse in exactly the right overall density and local density changes through careful dodging and burning. Without everything in absolutely perfect balance, the image loses the glow—the glow which is everything.

In this image, the central tree seems to be enveloped, almost basking, in the glowing forest as well as stretching upward, striving to reach ever higher—so much so that the image seems to be proportionally taller than usual and yet it is printed full frame, without cropping, as is virtually all of my work.
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