Travel Photo Thursday: “Scaling” Trees

Travel Photo Thursday: “Scaling” Trees

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What does it mean to “scale” a tree?

Tree ClimberOne definition of the verb “scale is “to reach the highest point of.” So to “scale a tree” could mean to climb it. (Photo by Scrap Pile via Flickr.)

“Scale” also means to measure, not just weight, but in the case of trees, to estimate how much lumber an uncut tree will produce when harvested.

When photographing trees, “scale” means giving the viewer a sense of the size of the tree. And, as I pointed out in “Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting The World’s Biggest Trees,” this can be a difficult task.

But there’s a simple solution to “scaling” trees with a camera: Put a person “in the frame.”


Mosquito Cove, Sitka, AlaskaHaving someone stand under a tree probably wouldn’t create a very memorable image. Unless, of course, that person was under the tree’s roots.

But how could you possibly get that shot? Dig six-feet under the base of the tree? You’d need a backhoe to do that job.

A tree growing near Mosquito Cove north of Sitka, Alaska, obligingly solved the problem for me. Its roots arched high over the trail, and my wife barely had to duck her head under them while I took this photo.

In Between

Steep Ravine, Mount TamalpaisThe coast redwoods living near the Pacific Ocean in Northern California are closely spaced, their roots intertwined, supporting each other like members of a close-knit clan.

Usually, these high-rise trees are far enough apart that you can easily walk around them. But in the narrow confines of aptly named Steep Ravine, which cascades a thousand-feet down the flank of Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco, they huddle together.

I pressed the shutter button on my camera just as one of my hiking companions snaked his way between two of these behemoths. The resulting image reveals both the girth and soaring height of the trees through which he walked.


Fire Scarred Redwood Tree, Muir Woods National MonumentUnlike forests of pine or fir, those where the redwoods grow are not turned into hillsides covered by spindly, bare snags rising above black ash-laden soil after fire rushes through. Redwood bark may be scarred by fire or a lightning strike, but the trees nearly always survive for many more years.

Some of these tall trees have room-sized cavities with “cathedral ceilings” at their bases.  I named this one on the Ben Johnson Trail in Muir Woods National Monument “Karen’s Tree House,” after the member of my Tuesday hiking group who checked out the “living accommodations” in this giant coast redwood.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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6 Replies to “Travel Photo Thursday: “Scaling” Trees”

  1. Great post Dick. I recall a birthday I was celebrating a few years ago and I had Joel take a photo of me in front of a great old tree in Victoria B.C. I captioned it, “Finally, something wider and older than me!”

    1. I was up in the air over what to write about for this week’s “Travel Photo Thursday” piece, Vera. But as you can see, my vision finally got grounded.

  2. We are big tree lovers in our household. You can tell where our house is by the abundance of trees that obscure the house. We also love driving through forrests and smelling the leaves as they are scrunched underfoot. The big old ones are amazing and the tiny new ones inspire me with their new growth. Your under the roots picture is my favourite 🙂

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