I have always had a strong affinity with trees and woodlands having grown up in
Scotland surrounded by woodlands and forests. My earliest memory is of sheltering
under a Scots pine on a fishing trip with my father, aged six or seven. It's where I
caught my first brown trout, and I am happy to say that the tree is still standing proud
overlooking Loch Tulla in Glencoe.
The Queen's Green Canopy is a way of illustrating how trees and woodlands
connect us all on a universal level. They are a defining and constant part of the
landscape. The way trees communicate with one another and other species
underneath the forest floor, sharing nutrients and water through their root systems, is
something known as the wood wide web. The method by which more seasoned
mother trees can detect the ill health of their neighbours - and provide them with
much-needed nutrients - through this mycorrhizal network is a lesson to us all.
This initiative has shone a light on our ancient trees and woodlands and the
importance of planting for our future generations. The honour of spending time
amongst the trees and capturing them in a book to mark Her Majesty The Queen's
Platinum Jubilee, is one of the best experiences you could ever have.
Nature has an intensity so strong it gives you a totally different view on the world.
When you witness earth's natural power, it is sometimes hard to see its underlying
fragility. But scratch beneath the surface and it is there.
This need to protect what we have before it is too late has influenced my work for as
long as I can remember. Experiencing first-hand the natural power of the earth gives
you an appreciation of the sheer force of what surrounds us, together with the ability
to breathe. In 2004 I was photographing the vent of Kilauea (the goddess of fire) on
the Big Island in Hawaii when the volcano started to erupt. This near-death
experience made me realise just how insignificant we are to the natural power of the
earth and how we must do our utmost to protect our planet.
My life's journey has made me understand how important trees are to mankind: they
provide us with the very air we breathe, soaking up and capturing carbon from the
atmosphere and converting it into oxygen. They stabilise our soil - preventing erosion
- and help to limit flooding by absorbing stormwater. They provide shelter and food
for wildlife - from multitudes of tiny insects to tawny owls, bats and deer - supporting
teaming ecosystems. In our cities, it is estimated that trees can reduce temperatures
by as much as 7°C while their canopies trap dust and pollutants from the air.
Many trees have healing properties and some of the world's pharmaceuticals are
derived from trees: aspirin comes from willow bark, yews are a source of Taxol used
for skin cancers, as well as tree oils and bark quinine. Doctors are realising that the
importance of the environment in which patients recover is just as important as the
medicines they take.
As well as the physiological benefits of trees, attention is turning to eco-psychology
based on our notion of our disconnection with nature. Modern medicine often sets
the physical and the emotional apart, yet their roots are firmly intertwined, and
research has shown how powerful exposure to the natural environment is for both
our mental and physical wellbeing.
Trees have the calming properties necessary to bring back our connection to nature,
reducing stress levels and providing joy and inspiration. Spending time walking
through a forest or sitting under a tree has been proven to be incredibly beneficial to
our well-being.
'The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a
green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity
and some scare see nature at all. But to the eyes of a man of imagination,
nature is imagination itself.' (William Blake)