Luck played a part in it. The water level was very low when Tim Lawson took his photograph of the famous tree in Lake Wanaka on the South Island of New Zealand. But how does a professional photographer create a special image of one of the most photographed trees in the world?
The Lake Wanaka tree is just one of the images in a new exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History. There will be a public reception with wine and light refreshments on Thursday, Nov. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m., and the show will run through December.
The tree in Lake Wanaka is a type of willow, Salix fragilis, sometimes called a crack willow because its bark is so brittle. The tree is not rare, and it is only 70 or so years old. What is unusual about this specimen is that it appears to be growing alone in the middle of a lake. Willows grow in wet habitats but not this wet. The Lake Wanaka tree only appears to be growing in the lake, as it is actually rooted in a tiny island. Most photographers try to capture the unusual setting and the beautiful mountains in the background. On the day Lawson took his picture, the water was just small puddles about 3-by-5-feet. So, luck was a part of it, but then artistry, skill and experience took over. Lawson arrived in the early morning when the light was great and the wind had not yet picked up to cause ripples. The puddle was as still as a piece of glass.
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“Its bare branches seem like they are reaching out to the rising sun,” Lawson said.
Taking that photograph is one of his most special memories. The photograph showing the Lake Wanaka tree with its mirror image is part of the MMAH exhibit.
Tim Lawson has lived in Christiansburg since the 1980s. He first got interested in photography while taking pictures of his two daughters playing softball and volleyball. Catching a softball coming off the bat or a volleyball compressed against a hand was exhilarating. Then the children grew up, and Lawson transitioned into landscape photography, which has become his favorite art form. At least landscapes hold still. Or do they? He has traveled widely and many of the pictures in the MMAH exhibit come from far off places.
While he was in Denmark, Lawson visited the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum near Copenhagen. The precious thousand-year-old Viking ships are inside the museum, but replicas of the boats are outside in the harbor, where Lawson photographed them. Neither the museum nor the picture was the highlight of his trip, as Copenhagen has a lot to offer, and he put the photograph away for two years. Then one day Lawson was scrolling through some raw files, and the color and light of this shot caught his seasoned eye in a new way. Using a program called Topaz that allows post-processing, he converted the image to a more painterly experience. The result is the work of art that is part of this exhibit.
There are 35 photographs in the MMAH exhibit. Some works are printed on metal such as aluminum. “Thanks for taking your time to see the world through my lens,” Lawson said.
The Montgomery Museum of Art & History is located at 4 East Main St. in Christiansburg. Learn more at https://montgomerymuseum.org.
— Submitted by Sue Farrar