Inspired Images for my Tree Magazine

This week I had trouble deciding between several artists featured on the Annenberg Space for Photography website, so I decided to follow the lead of a few different ones.


Carol Ring

This artists photographs close up texture photos of tree bark, which I decided to try out.


I also decided to make a similar image using eucalyptus leaves from different types of trees. In my magazine, these will be labeled so that the type of tree associated with each leaf is known to the viewer.

leaves on a grid


Lastly, I was also inspired by Carol Ring to put together some pictures of various parts of trees and put them together into one piece.

Plum Tree Blog Image

Pine Tree Squares

euc tree.jpg


Heather Kadar

This artist takes texture photos of natural objects and mirrors them so that they are symmetrical. I decided to do something similar with various types of tree bark.


Catherine Nelson

I based my assignment on this artist last time and had enough fun with it that I wanted to do it again with a focus on trees. It is possible that I might be able to use these for my magazine.

Magazine Proposal

I have always been interested in topics involving trees, especially for their aesthetic qualities. I somewhat recently realized how often trees feature in the photos I have taken in the past and how attached I am to the subject. I am actually surprised at how long it took for me to realize that the topic of trees is a very natural topic for me to choose for this project.

Trees are everywhere. They can be found abundantly in parks, cities, beaches, parking lots, deserts, tundras and a variety of other landscapes. It had been thought until very recently that there were somewhere around 400 billion trees on the planet, which is around 57 times as many people as there are on earth. In a recent “tree census” led by Yale university, however, it has been shown that there are actually over 3 trillion trees on earth, a number vastly different from the previous estimate. This number alone is astounding. To put this into perspective, counting one trillion seconds into the past would land someone around the year 30,000BC. Additionally, a person could have spent one million dollars every day since the year 0 and still would not have spent one trillion dollars, not even close. Three trillion trees is an unbelievable number. Even so, over the course of human civilization almost half of the amount of trees that once stood have been cut down, and 3 trillion is what remains. Not only has society greatly diminished the number of trees on the planet, but people are still going at it. Every year, 15 billion trees are felled while only 5 billion are grown to replace them, resulting in a net loss of 10 billion trees per year. At that rate, the earth will run out of trees entirely within 300 years.

The fact that no one currently alive will personally witness the day when our planet runs out of trees does nothing to slow the tree-cutting momentum that has built up over so many years of civilization. But everybody loves trees, so who would really want to see this happen? I feel that with enough public exposure to facts like this as well as a deeper shift toward environmentalism, the loss of trees can be brought to a halt, and I would love to make a contribution to that movement. With my magazine I intend to address the significance of trees as the magnificent and efficient organisms that they are. I hope to drive home their importance for life on earth in how they affect society, urban environments, the atmosphere, soil erosion, and the world as a whole while using their beautiful qualities to capture attention. Were this to be an actual magazine, my aims would also include spreading awareness of information that centers around the idea that trees are not a boundless resource to be wasted.

There are many artists that I can draw inspiration from using sites such as the Annenburg Space for Photography, Nature Photographers’ Network, the In Celebration of Trees exhibit as well as some painters such as Melissa Graves-Brown and others on online galleries (for example, there are many tree-inspired works that have been shown in the art galleries of Bozeman, Montana). In addition to artistic inspiration, I feel that scientific facts can be inspiring on their own. I have been doing research already using some scholarly studies to add to my knowledge on the subject and to gather ideas for the types of articles I would like to write. Researching topics will allow me to write pieces that add depth to the photos that I produce for the magazine. Photos are already very informative and lovely to look at, but the meaning that words can provide will help to make my magazine more interesting.

By the time I have completed this project, I hope that I will have acquired a deeper knowledge of how significant trees are to the world as well as an improved artistic sense. I feel that this project will help me to become better at writing, research, photography, layout and art in general, and I am very excited to start working on it.

Depending on my financial situation by the time this project is finished, I would love to have it printed as a physical magazine via so that I can have a hard copy, but I was thinking that I could also upload the magazine online to the class blog in case something like it might ever catch some other tree-lover’s attention. Even before the entire magazine is completed, it might also be a good idea to make individual posts regarding specific articles and photos that I feel might be interesting to others. Although I doubt too many strangers would be compelled to read bits of my magazine, I feel that the information presented in it will be applicable to anyone who might read it as trees effect most of the world’s systems. Because the topic might appeal to anyone, I would like to promote it as both an artistic and educational look at the importance of trees in the hopes that anyone even remotely interested in the topic might like to learn a bit about trees and feel inspired to take action. I would hope that any viewer of my magazine might continue to remember not only the imagery and tree-related information, but also feel impacted by the importance of organisms that are so omnipresent that they slip easily into the background and are forgotten. Perhaps a viewer of my magazine might remember to notice and appreciate trees as more than just a pretty backdrop, and see them as precious things that should be treasured and protected from extinction. 


Below is a quick “sketch” of what the magazine could look like. All of the images seen on the inside pages have been taken from the internet.


Lastly, here are the tree-related photos that I took for this week’s assignment:

Magazine Ideas

If possible, I wanted to work on a magazine revolving around misconceptions about environmental issues (or general science communication on a chosen topic). I would of course choose a topic more specific than “environmental issues,” or perhaps would target the specific issue on a particular topic. For example, if my magazine focuses on environmental misconceptions, I could do an issue on misunderstandings about climate change or recycling or sustainability. I think that a topic like this could work for photography as the topics are general enough that getting photos for it would be possible, but specific enough that photos would easily make sense with the articles presented. However, I wasn’t sure if I should be focusing way more on depicting artistic aspects of a chosen topic. If that is the case, then I am still not completely sure what topic I would like to pursue.

In order to get started and (hopefully) be inspired, I went out to take photos and find out what kinds of things I would feasibly be able to get decent images of. This approach led me to take a lot of photos that fall into the popular “decay” category of photography, which several people in the class have already chosen to do. After taking the photos, I later decided that I would prefer to avoid this topic as it is already widely covered by many artists and, although the concept and aesthetics of the topic interest me greatly, I would rather use photography to speak to an audience about their understanding of environmental issues. I would be especially interested in communicating the urgency with which issues such as climate change should be addressed as it is likely the greatest threat to the way humans live. I could write all day about climate change/sustainability/water scarcity/”extreme” weather and other topics that many people have understandable misconceptions about. I love reading/listening to pieces that promise “everything you knew about _____ is wrong!” because it’s endlessly fascinating how so many “facts” are just out-of-context bits and pieces fastened together and reframed into something so misleading that it effects the way people eat, think,socialize, use resources, conduct business, write laws and run campaigns.

I understand if this does not fit with the topic, however. If that doesn’t fit then I would love to do a magazine on trees that focuses on more artistic matters. I love photographing trees and I do have a decent amount to say about them. After going through some old photos recently, I realized that trees are a very common subject in the pictures that I take, so it shouldn’t be any stretch at all to produce a variety of images and write all about them. In fact, as I am writing about this I am developing a more detailed mental picture of what I could do with trees as the main topic of my magazine. I could write about their environmental/scientific, societal and emotional significance, how quickly we could run out of trees entirely, basics on how they function, their evolutionary history, their differences from other plants, their effect on soil, erosion, atmosphere and everything else. Okay, I just changed my mind, I think I’m going with trees. If I have to get more specific then I will definitely be able to do that. I could do a Southern California issue with a piece about the benefits of green spaces in warm climates, a special “treelist” featuring a selection of native trees in some of Southern California’s many different climates along with images and brief descriptions as well as some other bits that have to do specifically with trees as they relate to Southern California.

Unfortunately, my decision on what to do with my magazine did not come to me until today (Wednesday) on campus, so I could not include any images relating to the magazine I  now want to make. However, I included some of the photos I took this week as I attempted to figure out what I wanted to do for the project in order to show that I put in effort to get images and come up with ideas.



MOPA Artist Inspired Photo Series

Before my trip to the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Ori Gersht’s works had already struck me as interesting, (as made evident by my previous post about his works). Since I had already written briefly about him, I told myself that I wouldn’t use him as my inspiration for this week’s photo series homework, but I guess I just couldn’t help myself.

While I don’t have the ability to photograph literal explosions like Gersht has, one aspect of his photography that I felt I could conceivably pursue was his exciting use of still objects. Using subjects from the natural world, I set out to take a series of photos and to (hopefully) accomplish the task of showing still objects in a way that would emulate movement. Although I did not have the time or resources to set up those objects as still life portraits in the way that Gersht has done, I tried my best to photograph things so that they would appear more exciting.

Even though this series is obviously quite different from Ori Gersht’s pieces in the Museum of Photographic arts, I hope that I have succeeded in at least utilizing one or two inspiring aspects of his artistic style.

The artist that I chose to take inspiration from was Ori Gersht, an Israeli artist whose exploding flowers photo series is currently on display in the Museum of Photographic Arts as part of the “Prix Pictet: Disorder” exhibition. His pieces stood out to me during my visit probably for some of the same reasons as it would to many people – they are dramatic, larger-than-life, portrait style prints of an exploding bouquet of flowers. They are impressive, striking, and difficult to miss.

Beyond my first impression, one of the things that I found particularly interesting was the still life quality of the photographs, as they are very busy and full of drama and movement while retaining a formal, still quality reminiscent of traditional paintings. His images are both beautiful and violent, capturing sudden and volatile points in time that have obviously caused a startling interruption in an otherwise sensitive and mild moment.

His photographs may possibly be an exploration of the relationship between rapid destruction and quiet tranquility, as they seem to draw attention to a whole and unbroken moment of the recent past. The prior existence of an intact bouquet of flowers is implied, and perhaps even meant to be longed for, but a glimpse into the past when those flowers still stood is denied to the viewer and is altogether absent from the series. Although Gersht’s floral explosion is a beautiful and unique artistic vision, I feel that, in a more practical environment, most people might prefer to keep an arrangement of undamaged flowers nearby rather than a ravaged heap of green matter. While there may be beauty in the destruction of a flower bouquet, viewers may not be able to escape a lingering sense of violation present in Gersht’s images. In fact, Gersht’s infringement on traditional beauty leads me to wonder if his intention might be to question the very event captured on camera, as there seems to be a moral dilemma evident the act of destroying something so organic and lovely for the sake of art.

Regardless of whether or not any of the impressions I got from Ori Gersht’s works were actually intentional, the series is obviously engaging, thoughtful and easy to be inspired by.

MOPA Visit Proof

Sustainability on Campus

Given the time and money, there are a few things related to sustainability that I would really like to see CSUSM focus on.

Water & Irrigation 

One thing that CSUSM could use a lot of is monitored watering systems for trees and plants. Drip lines, soaker hoses and more closely controlled sprinklers are all possibilities for making that happen.

Replacing thirsty plants is another way to reduce water usage on campus. CSUSM could slowly phase out any thirsty plants we may have (such as lawn grass) and maintain native plants. Some lawns could be replaced by high-quality and long lasting artificial grass, community garden spaces, solar panelled shade structures, etc.

Although it may be ideal to replace all of the grass on campus with lovely (though admittedly expensive) artificial lawns, in the mean time the irrigation on campus could use some additional management. Certain areas on campus are watered unnecessarily or too frequently, and campus landscaping irrigation should be calibrated to reflect that. For example, there is a section of grass in between the Arts and Social and Behavioral Science Building (the one that is currently roped off as a new sidewalk is installed) that is regularly watered to the point of saturation and overflow, despite the fact that half of that lawn has become a mud pit over time (probably due to a combination of trampling and over-watering). Areas like this obviously do not need to be watered so much and so often – doing so is a waste of valuable water. The sprinkler system should be set up to meet the demands of individual areas without over-watering so that this does not happen. 

It might also be wise for CSUSM to capture water in a number of large rain barrels over the winter months and use that water specifically for watering landscaping plants. This would not only reduce water usage and costs, but would also limit CSUSM from installing more plants than Southern California’s annual rainfall allows. These barrels could be set uphill from where the water is needed so that at least some of the on campus irrigation can take advantage of gravity and pressure to transport the water from one end to the other (if it isn’t already doing so).

Water can of course be saved in other areas, such as its use in restrooms around campus. One method of lessening water usage could be to instal water pressure control systems for sinks which would prevent water from coming out at unnecessarily high pressures (in my experience many of the sinks on campus shoot out way more water than is really needed for hand washing, as if blasting students’ hands will forcibly blow the germs off). Additionally, one other possibility among many others could be to use gray water for flushing the toilets on campus, which would easily improve CSUSM’s water usage.


It should be noted that getting rid of all plants on campus would not necessarily improve CSUSM’s carbon footprint as green spaces are needed for shade, heat reduction, air filtration, and CO2 absorption. With that in mind, CSUSM should concentrate on better water usage and drought tolerant plant choices rather than removing all vegetation from the campus. Allowing students to help cultivate certain areas in either a communal garden or other space may encourage this practice. For example, establishing some kind of club that focuses on gardening and plant care could present opportunities for students to help plant and care for new trees around campus that they then get to name or dedicate. Activities like that might help to make proper plant care feel more personally significant. As an added bonus, more trees on campus would help to keep it cool and shady during hotter months.

Allowing students to grow vegetables on campus in a larger garden than the one we have is an equally enticing idea. Although the idea of having a farmers’ market on campus is lovely, the rules regarding the sale of food may require difficult to obtain permits. This wouldn’t be just because of CSUSM’s contract with food providers, but also because of federal, state and local regulations regarding food sales. This could present a challenge for groups of students who might all need to obtain individual certificates/permits or other types of permissions if their club or organization cannot get one general permit. There may also be strict rules regarding how to food is grown and handled before it reaches the market that students would have to work around. A farmers’ market on campus may also lead to legal difficulties if any students or faculty who have purchased vegetables decided to sue due to an illness or other problem caused by food grown on campus. In short, although I haven’t actually researched how easy or difficult it may be to sell student-grown food to other students, it may take quite some time before something like a farmers’ market becomes feasible regardless of laws involving farmers’ market vendors. In light of this, perhaps in the meantime students can practice growing their own vegetables in a communal garden hosted by CSUSM. There may be a whole different set of permits involved with something like that for all I know, but in an ideal world a communal garden on campus could be a great option for students who lack the money, space or other resources for a home garden. Perhaps students who sign up to use it could be allotted individual or group spaces as well as resources (such as shared irrigated beds and garden soil). The resources needed could be provided to them to set up themselves and plant what they like. Perhaps groups could even be established based on what days they have classes so that they can trade off days to check on and care for their plants. A campus garden of some kind would allow students a unique opportunity to grow their own food that they may not find elsewhere.


Although it may not be a feasible option in the short term, perhaps CSUSM could be a leader in North County’s move toward sustainable practices. It is time for San Diego to catch up with the rest of California and CSUSM could help to demonstrate how efficient our local organizations can be.

 Possibly one of the most obvious changes that could be made at some point in the future might be the installation of solar panels around campus to lower our dependency on fossil fueled energy. Solar panels that double as shade structures could be installed in parking areas as well as the rooves of buildings. In fact, the construction company M Bar C is within perhaps 2 miles of the school and specializes specifically in solar panel shade structures for parking lots, so help could even be found locally.

In addition to solar panels, structures on campus could be updated for greater efficiency in other ways. Techniques for more efficient temperature control, such as shady overhangs on buildings, layouts that enhance natural ventilation and cool roofing could easily improve energy use and efficiency. Using greener materials for other installments on campus can also help to keep the campus cool and reduce water and energy usage. One great example of using greener materials like this includes the use of permeable pavements, which reflect sun and absorb water, increasing the effect of evaporative cooling and keep the overall temperature of the campus under control. Green spaces that include native plants and trees have a similar cooling effect as well as a calming and aesthetic appeal. Planting more trees in the campus parking lots would also have a similar cooling effect in areas where solar panel shade structures are not blocking sunlight. 

Cool rooves or green rooves could also be installed on campus buildings. Given the Southern California climate as well as the comparative costs between those two options however, cool rooves could have the most beneficial impact in the near future as their light color would reflect sunlight and keep indoor temperatures pleasant.

As a bonus, the combination of light colored cool roofing and permeable pavements as well as on campus green spaces would give CSUSM a much higher albedo, which would keep our campus much cooler in the summer and help to reduce the overall temperature in our immediate area. It is possible that practices like this could also help to reduce the overall temperature of San Marcos if implemented more widely and, if it were possible to practice worldwide, might even help reduce the rising temperature of the earth (although I am not making a definitive statement here as researchers remain unsure if this would make a measurable difference to the overall temperature of the earth). However, if nothing else, an increase in light surfaces on campus (or, similarly, more vegetated surfaces) would help reduce high temperatures during hot months. A reduced temperature can mean fewer cooling costs for the University. In fact, CSUSM might even consider utilizing any of that extra money for something fun like lowering the cost of parking, adding more classes or providing students with helpful resources.

Education and Awareness 

Not many sustainable solutions will be possible without general awareness. If people on campus don’t know about the problem then a solution may be hard to come by, and a consensus may be even harder to reach. The art department could participate in this part of the process by creating posters, flyers, videos, webpages, blogs or other materials for spreading awareness. This could help to create an understanding about what kinds of things can be done to not only reduce CSUSM’s carbon footprint, but also about what individuals can do to lessen their own impact on the environment. Educating students and faculty on environmental issues and what CSUSM might be able to do about it could be a big step toward getting our university to participate in the kind of changes that the world needs.

Address Nimbyism

Lastly, as my group and a few others talked about during class, CSUSM could take steps to make sustainability beautiful. If there are any existing concerns about sustainable development on campus degrading its visual appeal (ha), then those concerns could be addressed with artistic responses. This is another thing that the art department could easily be involved in. As an example, projects that involve beautifying environmentally friendly equipment/appliances and creating inspiring artworks that bring attention to issues such as global warming, pollution, water scarcity, etc could not only help to ease CSUSM’s transition to more sustainable practices, but might also stir up some excitement among students and faculty about how lovely our campus could become. Producing beautiful and environmentally conscious art like that around campus could help make the change to sustainable practices seem concrete and attainable, and usher in a positive attitude toward sustainable development. Environmental art on campus could build up the momentum needed to take action and make our campus more sustainable.