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Photographing a Spruce After the Rain

Simon's background is in biomedical and health science. He also writes about fashion, nature, and photography.

It took a long time to identify this conifer.

It took a long time to identify this conifer.

Conifer Proudly Standing in Our Front Yard

It was a Friday morning in late August and I had just returned home from working out at the gym. It had rained a few hours before I got home and the sun was peeking through a partially cloudy sky. After I applied lotion to my skin to keep it from drying out, I looked out the window. The familiar conifer tree was staring back at me. But today it looked different. More beautiful. More dazzling.

The sunlight shining on the tree made the water droplets hanging on the needles shimmer and sparkle. It was quite a sight. Immediately I knew I had to get my camera and take photographs of this marvelous sight.

Studying the Conifer Photographically

I grabbed my DSLR camera that had a 50mm f/1.8 lens attached and stepped outside to photograph the glinting tree. I took several close-up pictures of the branches and water drops. I tried to capture the sparkle in the water droplets.

It was hard because I wasn't sure how to compose the branches so that they would look good. I tried framing them in different ways. I also photographed some distant shots of the watery branches. This photo essay is a collection of some of the better shots that I took of this conifer after the rain.

Studying the Conifer Scientifically

After I had downloaded all of my photos onto my computer, I went through all of them to select those that were presentable. As I was looking through my work, it occurred to me that I didn't really know what type of conifer the tree was.

How to Identify a Conifer Tree: Pine, Fir or Spruce

So I began my research online to identify this tree. I went on several websites that had information for identifying confers. Many of them distinguish from fir, spruce and pine. Pines were easy as their needles grew in groups. It was harder to identify fir from spruce. One website said that spruce had square or diamond needles when cut in cross-section. So I went out and picked a needle from my tree. I picked one that was growing at the tip. When I cut it in half and examined the cross-section it looked sort of flat, with a somewhat diamond shape. I was confused. What is it flat or square?

Another site said that cones on spruce droop, whereas on fir they stand erect. I looked at the cones on my tree and they were definitely drooping.

About a week later, I went out again and picked a needle that was closer to the trunk (more mature). When I cut it and looked at the cross-section, it was clearly square. See the accompanying photo. So I finally knew with confidence that the conifer in front of my house was a spruce.

Needles in cross section—single square-shaped needles are indeed from a spruce.

Needles in cross section—single square-shaped needles are indeed from a spruce.

A First Look

This is one of the better photos of the spruce after the rain. We can see that the focal point is that one branch in the centre of the photograph. It extends almost diagonally from the lower right side to the upper left side, taking your eye from right to left. It is in crisp focus, drawing your attention to the fine details of the branch and needles. We can see that there are droplets of water clinging onto the needles. The colour of the branch and needles look vivid, alive and vibrant.

What I love about this photo is the bokeh in the background. We can see circular bokeh on the left side. This is from the shimmering water droplets produced by the sunshine.

Spruce needles after the rain

Spruce needles after the rain

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A Second Look

The second photo shows a different branch. Here, we see that it doesn't take full prominence, as it crouches on the lower right. It is also clear that the brightness, the vividness of the first photo is missing in this one. This one is much darker, and moodier.

The branch in focus on the bottom right has a three-pronged branch. This particular motif is repeated again farther up on the left side in another branch. This added an element of repetition and rhythm.

Like the first photo, this one also has nice bokeh. It's fewer but they are there. One criticism is the photo may be slightly overexposed. The highlights on the left side seem intense. It almost looks like there are too many white highlights.

Rain droplets on a spruce

Rain droplets on a spruce

A Final Look

The third and final photo in this photo essay shows a more distant shot of the branches of the spruce. We can see here a full branch stretching out across the middle of the photo. Parts of the branches are in sharp focus and we can see the details of the needles. They look rather small in this photo.

Although we don't observe any water droplets on the branches, we can see them in the background as circular bokeh. I really do love seeing these and I knew I would be able to capture them when I initially looked out my window and saw the droplets of rain on the branches in the sunlight.

Another interesting quality about this photo is the duality. We can see there is brightness in the upper half of the photo as represented by the sunny sky. And on the bottom half, we see darkness. This light and darkness, separated by the branch, is quite remarkable.

The only thing I'm concerned about in this photo is the bright areas. I think it may be just overexposed as the case in the second photo.

A distant shot

A distant shot

Photo Study of a Spruce Tree After Rain

I am so glad that I did a photographic study of the spruce in our front yard after a rainfall. At the end of this project, I was able to identify the type of tree that has been growing in front of me more more than a decade. In addition, I got some wonderful photographs of the tree after early morning rain. To me the photos are beautiful and I loved the pretty bokeh in the images.


Simon Lam (author) on August 25, 2017:

Hi Snakeslane! Thank you for your sweet words! It must be nice to live in a rainforest and experience the trees and bountiful nature. Wow! That's impressive that you've climbed these trees. I'm sure the view was worth the prickly climb up. Take care!

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on August 25, 2017:

Nice work on the Spruce tree After the Rain photo essay Simon. I live in a Rain forest and have seen this magnificent tree grown to astonishing heights, even climbed a few to check out the view in my day. Prickly though :)