A photographer's tribute to trees lost in the Iowa derecho

The maple tree in my front yard has been the focus of an Iowa Photo feature of mine, the background of a past Shutter in Place feature, a source of shade while I photographed a Mad About Food feature and it has supplied the leaves I’ve used for fall foliage photos.

Not to mention all my time spent sitting under it for a break from working in the yard or just to read a book on a nice day.

The tree, unfortunately, was among the 65 percent of the canopy lost in Cedar Rapids in the Aug. 10 derecho. The damage at my home was minimal. The house is fine, we had power back at the two-week mark and internet the same day. My complaints are trivial compared to some others, I know.

But the absence of that beautiful tree every time I look out the kitchen window or pull into the driveway still is a sore spot for me. It was the first thing I loved about the house when we came from Davenport to tour the place and it’s now the first thing about this home I miss.

It will remain a sad reminder of the damage done to our community.

For this week’s Shutter in Place, I really just wanted to pay homage to the tree and the tens of thousands of others lost in the community. Having now spent most of the last month photographing downed trees and the people around them, this is the last thing thing I thought I’d be assigning myself, but I thought it would also present a nice challenge. It’s something I’m honestly quite tired of photographing.

But this time is different.

If you were to drive down my street you would, without a doubt, see the piles of debris in front of mine and my neighbors homes as an eyesore. While I know they’ll be picked up soon enough, I couldn’t agree more. So, trying to photograph that and a stump left amid sawdust and grass that has seen better days with any sense of beauty ... well, the challenge should be obvious.

The first thing you have to do is work to see things a bit different. For me, step one in this was to pick up two lenses I haven’t been using much which forces a new view. I grabbed a Canon 50mm f/1.4 and a Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for my 6D body. I also waited for the right light for these photos, figuring around 7 p.m., and kept an eye out the window while working at my desk.

Another useful approach to seeing something with fresh eyes is a bit literal. Get closer to it, lay on the ground for a new angle or even climb a ladder if you can. A fresh view is key.

With all that in mind, I just walked around the yard finding new angles and details for maybe a half hour. It served as a nice break in my day and, while it may not be anything too momentous, I will say it was a nice farewell for me before the rest of the debris is hauled away.

If nothing else, I recommend you try it just for that.