Palm Tree Silhouette

One of the primary features of Palm Springs is its many palm trees, so the city is aptly named.

Palm Tree Silhouette, Palm Springs, CA

This grouping of palm trees is located near the north end of Palm Springs. I made this photograph at sunrise when the yellow and orange light created beautiful silhouettes of the palm trees against the early morning sky. I usually try to avoid large areas of complete blackness in my photographs. I want to have a proper exposure and maintain at least a small amount of detail even in the dark shadows. But in this photograph I wanted a full silhouette. The trees are pure black here, and I wanted to have that contrast between the silhouetted palm trees and the bright, colorful morning sky. The contrast brings out the glow of the sky and also accentuates the shapes of the trees.

This is one of those photographs that probably anyone could make. It’s not a location that’s difficult to get to. It’s not a technically difficult photograph to make. It’s a pretty straightforward composition too, and lots of other compositions would probably have worked equally well. So on a technical level, anyone can do it. But I find that to be the case for many photographs. Assuming you are in the right place at the right time, which does take some planning, patience, persistence, and a little bit of luck--but given all that, if you are a technically competent photographer you will be able to make any photograph you’ve seen others make. But that’s just the thing. The point is I did not make this because I saw someone else make it. I’m not copying something I’ve seen someone else do. This was my idea at that time. Maybe it’s not an original idea--surely it’s been done many times before. But it was my independent idea, and it was the story I wanted to tell at the time. That’s the key. For a photograph to work, it has to be a natural and honest expression of the photographer. It has to tell that photographer’s story. In other words it has to be an artistic expression. Otherwise it’s just a pretty picture.

I don’t often make silhouette photographs, but it felt like the right thing to do in this case. The simplicity of the photograph helps tell the story of the palm trees of Palm Springs on a calm morning at sunrise. It’s that story that I’m telling--that attempt at communication I’m making--that makes this photograph worth sharing. Maybe anyone could have made this photograph, but not everyone would have told that story, and that’s what I hope comes through in photographs like this one. Like all my photographs, it reveals something about me. It lets me tell part of my story.