Marion Sidebottom

Nature-Based Photographer & Artist, MA, ARPS, RHS Silver Gilt

At the time of photographing these oaks I had permission to be there from the landowner, the area is now under special environmental protection and there is NO ACCESS  to the field.  The landowner is inundated weekly with requests which is time consuming and  they are a busy working farm.  The trees, land and fences have been damaged by illegal trespassers, please do not be one of those people. They can however be viewed from a public footpath.

In 2014 I came across this incredible field of 900 year old oak trees in Mundon, Essex.  Sadly all but two were dead but since then I have come to know that dead trees are still incredibly important for the biodiversity that they can support.  The local historian believes that the trees were originally planted  in 1100 and narrowly missed being used for warships in the Maldon shipbuilding industry as they were unsuitable. With kind permission from the landowner I undertook a 3 month long photographic project and visited these trees at all times of the day and night between February and May.  This project had three elements:

1) I self-published a book called 'The Lonely Oaks'. During this time I was experimenting with HDR photography to use three differently exposed images to create the dramatic black and white skies and to retain detail in the shadows. See below if you wish to purchase this book. 

2) I digitally manipulated some of the images to represent the harsh environmental conditions that they lived in such as low sea level near salt marsh long periods of dry weather. I imagined the effect of saltwater on their roots and how they would look.  At this point in time I did not realise that roots were shallower and more spread out than I had pictured.

3) I also created 1 metre canvasses using image transfer techniques and displayed these as part of an art installation which included 160 litres of compost and a dead tree at Writtle University College.  This was the exhibition element of my Research MA.

The Lonely Oaks book is available here as a PDF, Ebook or printed book.