Story and photos by Whit Bronaugh
For most of my childhood my address was “the house with the biggest tree on Cardinal Lane.” That big black cherry tree, a remnant of the farm from which our little subdivision was carved, dominated our front yard and arched protectively over my bedroom.
It defined my seasons, taught me biology, featured in my outdoor games, and conveyed the potential of tree growth, the relative permanence of big trees, and the feeling that there are bigger, older, and wiser things in this world that we should heed. Perhaps it’s no wonder that, when I became a nature photojournalist, I soon turned my camera toward big trees.
Near midnight on May 12, 1989, I pulled into a parking lot, walked down a short trail, and, for the first time, paid a visit to a national champion tree. The next morning, I returned and photographed my first national champion tree, ole General Sherman him/herself. Since then, I have had the honor and privilege of photographing 200 champion trees in 30 states, but the real rewards come from just spending time with them, appreciating them, and seeing the world from their perspective. I hope these images will give you a window to some of my experiences with big trees and inspire you to go out and have your own.