29.6 x 24 in | 75.2 x 61 cm
The scenery in the mountains of western United States and Canada is so dramatic that it seems unreal. Such beauty is a nature artist’s dream, but I find myself wondering whether anyone will believe the painting when it’s finished. One of the techniques artists use to fool the eye into seeing depth is to make distant objects increasingly more blue and violet. Distant objects are also more desaturated (grayer) and fuzzier. But in the clear, dry air of these mountains distant objects are still very sharp so a faithful rendition of the scene may fail to create an impression of depth.
The quilt work of colors—patches of bright yellow trees, ochre, orange-yellow and even bare trees—also seems unreal until you learn how Trembling Aspens (populus tremuloides) reproduce. They spread by sending shoots up from the tips of their roots, like strawberries. One tree can establish an entire colony of genetically identical trees that tend to be the same color in the fall and lose their leaves at the same time, resulting in almost unbelievable patches on the mountain.
Finally, the pointed steeples poking up out of the aspens and oaks stretch credulity unless you know that Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) are giants, commonly growing to 200 ft (60 m) while aspens are rarely more than 80 ft (25 m). The little guys in this company are the Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) in the foreground, topping out at about 60 ft. (20 m). The Garry Oaks were helpful to the composition because their shadows created a dark stripe across the panel. Amsel Adams followed this principle of dark foreground.
This combination of trees lives in Utah, but can be found in most of the Western States and Western Canada except for the Garry Oak, which is mostly southern.