Trees literally stand the test of time. the oldest tree in the world is a 5,062-year-old bristlecone pine. Climate change, however, is threatening the world’s ancient trees and wreaking havoc on some populations. California-based photographer Beth Moon has photographed ancient trees around the world since 2006. His stunning black and white images of ancient baobab trees in Madagascar, Senegal and South Africa are a tribute to endangered giants.
the baobabs from the African continent can live for over 1,500 years – one has been documented living up to 2,500 years. Trees bear fruit and provide useful bark material (which regenerates) for communities. They are famous for appearing ‘upside down’, with branches and roots spreading out. The trunks are exceptionally wide, reaching diameters of up to 46 feet.
Moon has been photographing trees, like the baobab, for over a decade. She searches for ancient trees all over the world to go out with her camera. His previous series ancient trees and Dragon’s Blood Island are just a few examples of his work and cover species that also include redwoods and yews.
In 2018, Moon heard shocking news. A 1,400-year-old baobab named Tsitakakoike had collapsed on itself. Like other members of its species, the tree has been struggle in drought conditions and the ravages of climate change. Their extensive root network cannot grab dry soil to support their weight. Losing an ancient tree is a loss to the communityand it also hit Moon hard.
“The first baobabs I photographed were in Madagascar in 2006,” Moon tells My Modern Met. “It’s hard not to fall under the spell of these gigantic, wildly eccentric trees. Over the next few years, I photographed baobab trees in Botswana and South Africa. These photographs were part of the tree portraits in the Portraits of Time series. In 2018, I started seeing disturbing global headlines… When the scientist I was in contact with wrote to me to tell me that the largest sacred baobab tree was dying, I decided to return to Madagascar. In the past 12 years, nine of the 13 oldest baobabs and five of the six largest baobabs have died. Not only is this disastrous decline unexpected, it is statistically highly unlikely. By making additional trips to Africa, I decided to make it the focus of new work.
Taking pictures of ancient beings was not easy. “Photographing these trees was particularly difficult, largely due to their size,” says Moon. “The views are just too wide to capture in a single exposure. Often several overlapping shots were taken and then stitched together. My journey to the tree was filled with obstacles. Due to weather conditions, I was forced to take alternate paths through the forest, but this led to the discovery of trees that I had never seen before.
The effort, however, is worth it. “In the presence of old trees, it reminds me that there is still grace and beauty in the world. These thoughts lead me beyond sorrow to hope. In honoring the trees that remain, we celebrate the joy and splendor of our natural world.
Photographer Beth Moon has traveled the world photographing ancient trees, including the baobabs of Africa.
Trees can live well over 1,500 years.
Their trunks can reach 45 feet in diameter.
Climate change endangers ancient trees through drought.
Moon’s stunning images capture the beauty and fragility of the species.