Beech Blend (on pause)

Around Thanksgiving 2020, I bushwhacked into a deciduous forest dominated by American Beech on the southern shore of Lake Superior. I plotted out a 10’X10′ square and didn’t leave for 65 hours. Beech bark disease had been killing trees throughout Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and I wanted to immerse myself in a relatively healthy forest before the landscape changed beyond recognition. I photographed the woods like I never had before – piecemeal – using a long lens to stitch together hundreds of photographs in a roughly 120-degree arc from left to right, from forest canopy to forest floor.

I returned to the exact same spot to do the exact same thing three times over the course of the following year, making an impression of the forest in each of its four seasons. While shooting, I envisioned it all coming together – the blending of the seasons in a singular work – and assumed naively that I’d have it wrapped up by Thanksgiving 2021.

Then I started to work and realized my computer’s limits when processing Photoshop files of 20 GB or more, with document sizes nearing 160 inches wide. Each file takes 15 minutes to save, let alone the lag time of every action or tool stroke … the ever present spinning ball of crash. At this point, 2 of the 4 seasons are stitched and toned. Another season is stitched, but needs toned. The final season exists only as unprocessed RAW files.

In recent months, as I made a concerted effort to rebuild my website, late nights and weekends left little time for beech blending. But now, with the site near complete, I turn my sights again to the photographic interpretation of a forest that may not resemble itself a decade from now.

I keep ignoring what should be apparent by now, the near-certain impossibility of layering and blending all four seasons without more RAM. But I’m sure I’ll try until my blood boils and I storm into the woods to pursue other photo projects, confident without a doubt that they’ll be finished in a timely manner.