San Francisco-based photographer Beth Moon has dedicated more than a decade of her life chasing our planet’s aboriginal trees, searching for them to the most remote spots of our world. After devoting fourteen years to capturing ancient trees in the daylight, the photographer initiated the Diamond Nights, in which she shot the unique plants in the starlight.
The Diamond Nights project was firstly inspired by various scientific studies that examined the bond between trees and starlight. The first, Moon reports, was conducted by the University of Edinburgh and finds that cosmic radiation has a profound effect on the growth of trees; the second, written by Lawrence Edwards, suggests that buds will transform in accordance with planetary movements. The ties between celestial bodies and trees, says Edwards, is strong enough that specific species will interact and align themselves with different planets.
Moon poured over research materials to locate the specific trees throughout southern Africa, in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. In order to shoot under a clear sky, she stayed in isolated and uninhabited areas, following a guide for hours across unmarked terrain. Another intriguing part of her search was the fact that while some of the trees were named, many were not, meaning that no one could locate them without knowing exactly where they stood.
After marking the place during the day usually with a small collection of rocks, the photographer returned at night only with a flashlight. The darkness, she says, was so thick that she was unable to see her own hand, and her exposures lasted for about thirty seconds each. In that time, she allowed enough light to enter her camera but forced the stars to stay in place; any longer, and they would begin to form trails across the sky.
This experience was for Moon something like diving in the ocean. Staying with the trees for hours, in silence, witnessing their secret communion with the sky above. She titles each tree after the constellation rendered behind it, paying tribute to the ancient Greeks and Romans who were inspired many stories of their mythology from the night sky.
All images © Beth Moon