Peter Lik’s Tree? No, it’s not.

The Tree.

Dragons Breath - Aaron Reed Photography

In the city of Portland, Oregon there is a world-famous Japanese Maple tree, located just inside the gates of the Portland Japanese Garden just waiting to capture your spirit and imagination. When you visit the garden and see this tree in person, or view beautiful photographs like the ones I share with you below, you may fantasize about the magic of this tree and the story of where it came from. It is difficult not to envision a small world of fairies or other mythical creatures creating homes here, built from the small ferns that surround it, scavenging the “forest” for mushrooms and other edibles. In reality, this glorious Japanese Maple that helps draw over a quarter million visitors each year to the garden, may have much more humble beginnings than you may think.

History of the Garden

In 1958, Portland became a sister city to Sapporo, Japan, helping to create a broad interest in Japanese culture. Soon after, several business leaders and the Mayor of Portland decided it would be wonderful for Portland to have a traditional Japanese Garden. On June 4th, 1962, the City Council created a commission to establish the garden on the site of the former Washington Park Zoo. The Japanese Garden Society of Oregon was formed in 1963 by Portland citizens interested in promoting a more intimate relationship between the Peoples of Japan and our city and state. Takuma Tono, a Tokyo Agricultural University professor and internationally recognized authority on Japanese landscape design, was commissioned to design and supervise the development of the garden and he began landscaping the garden that year. In the summer of 1967, the Portland Japanese Garden formally opened to the public. The 5.5-acre Japanese garden is composed of five separate gardens: Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden, Flat Garden, and Sand and Stone Garden.

Back to the Tree

Firebird - Aaron Reed Photography

This beautiful Japanese Maple tree that so many have grown to love, was not an original planting in the garden. No one is 100% sure of exactly when it was planted, or where it came from. Speaking to Adam Hart, Senior Gardener of the garden, after looking through historical photographs, I was told that this laceleaf maple was most likely planted sometime around 1971 and is between 65-70 years old. According to Mr. Hart, the tree was not very impressive when it was first planted, so there aren’t many photographs of it from those early days and the photographs he could find showed a fairly small and unspectacular specimen. The origin of the tree is also a mystery, but many of the laceleaf maples were donated from people in the community and while we are not sure that this was the case, you can see other spectacular laceleaf maples in the yards of beautiful homes along the road leading to the garden.

A Tree for all Seasons

Each and every season brings about change and rebirth inside the garden and the tree is no exception. It is spectacular all year round and an incredible photographic subject any time of the year.

White Lightning - Winter - Aaron Reed Photography

White Lightning – Winter – Aaron Reed Photography

Green Dragon - Spring - Aaron Reed Photography

Green Dragon – Spring – Aaron Reed Photography

Believe In Magic - Fall - Aaron Reed Photography

Believe In Magic – Fall – Aaron Reed Photography

The Peter Lik Effect

World renowned, Australian born photographer Peter Lik has captured numerous images of this tree throughout the years including pieces titled “Tree of Life” “Tree of Zen” and “Inner Peace”. With galleries around the world combined with the natural beauty of the tree itself, it is no wonder that almost every time I share a photograph of the tree someone says “It’s the Peter Lik Tree” or, “I have loved this tree ever since I saw Peter Lik’s version of it…and yours is as good or better!” I guess it just goes to show how the success of an image can follow you and in some ways become a part of who you are as a photographer.

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and spent the majority of my life there. In 2008, when I picked up my first camera, I began looking for places inside the city that I could photograph and stumbled across an out of focus, dreamy interpretation of this tree by a fellow photographer named Zeb Andrews. I had never heard of Peter Lik at this time and Zeb’s image was the only one I had ever seen before visiting the garden myself in the fall of that year. I have returned every year since then, capturing the tree in all four seasons.

In early 2013 I began offering a portion of my work as limited edition pieces, including the majority of my photographs of this beautiful tree. Since then I have sold hundreds of pieces from this collection, with the majority of them being large format prints on high gloss ChromaLuxe aluminum sheeting. Living Lightning, released in February 2013, has currently sold 130 of the 200 pieces in the limited edition. Dragon’s Breath, also a limited edition of 200 was released in November 2013 and has sold the first 40 pieces in just the past 7 months. The success of these images has even caused some to start calling this tree the Aaron Reed tree which I think it equally humorous to calling it Peter Lik’s.

Despite what others may think or how they choose to reference it, this majestic tree is not Peter Lik’s, nor is it mine, nor anyone else. The greatest value of this tree lies in the fact that it is there for everyone to see, to wonder, to experience and to share in a weird little city called Portland. :) For those who may have never been and would like to see the garden during the peak of fall color, the 3rd week in October is a pretty good bet for a time to choose to visit. Don’t hesitate, because this tree can change from green to orange to red and finally drop its leaves all in the course of a week. If you do visit, I hope you enjoy the tree and the rest of the garden as much as I have and will continue to, year after year.

If you are interested in purchasing pieces from my Limited Edition collection, including all of my captures of this tree including “Dragon’s Breath”, “Living Lightning”, “The Green Dragon”, “White Lightning”, “Believe In Magic” and my newest addition “Firebird”, please visit my website at http://www.aaronreedphotography.com or simply send me a message below:

Living Lightning - Aaron Reed Photography

Living Lightning – Aaron Reed Photography

The Rise – Image Of The Week 20% Sold Out – Aaron Reed Photography

The Rise

This week my image of the week is another limited edition piece from my collection titled “The Rise of Mt. Shuksan”. This piece is a limited edition of 200 and is over 20% SOLD OUT. If you are interested in purchasing one of my limited edition pieces please visit my website at http://www.aaronreedphotography.com

From Wiki:

Mount Shuksan is a glaciated massif in the North Cascades National Park. Shuksan rises in Whatcom County, Washington immediately to the east of Mount Baker, and 11.6 miles (18.7 km) south of the Canadian border. The mountain’s name Shuksan is derived from the Lummi word [šéqsən], said to mean “high peak”. The highest point on the mountain is a three sided peak known as Summit Pyramid. There are two named subsidiary peaks: Nooksack Tower and The Hourglass.

The mountain is composed of Shuksan greenschist, oceanic basalt that was metamorphosed when the Easton terrane collided with the west coast of North America, approximately 120 million years ago. The mountain is an eroded remnant of a thrust plate formed by the Easton collision.
West side view of Mount Shuksan in summer as seen from Artist Point

Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the Cascade Range. Photographs with its reflection in Highwood Lake near Mount Baker Ski Area are particularly common. The Mount Baker Highway, State Route 542, is kept open during the winter to support the ski area; in late summer, the road to Artist Point allows visitors to travel a few miles higher for a closer view of the peak.

For LOVE or MONEY?

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There are two distinct but quite different types of people who purchase artwork of any variety including fine art photography, the connoisseur and the collector. There are yet others who are a combination of the two that appreciate beautiful art, a great value and the opportunity to see a return on their investment. I would like to share with you how you can have the best of both worlds and how one man in Phoenix, Arizona has turned his business and his love for art into an amazing gallery for all to enjoy.

A collector will usually choose a piece that already holds significant value in the eyes of the general public & the art world. This does not mean they do not also enjoy the piece, it simply means that their first priority is usually the value of the piece and whether or not they expect this value to rise in the future. Before anything else it is a business decision. This type of collector often cares very deeply about how those around them feel about their purchase and many times will choose a piece simply for bragging rights or for show.

The connoisseur simply appreciates quality artwork. As with any form of artwork, the piece still needs to speak to the person considering it for purchase yet the current value and potential investment are less of a concern, if a concern at all. The connoisseur will fall in love with a piece, without concern about how others feel about it. The piece will usually create a deep connection with them, whether tied to a past experience, a precious memory, a friend or family member or simply a beautiful feeling. Whatever the reason, this person purchases a piece for the LOVE of the art.

In the world of nature photography, there are countless photographers offering you their interpretation of the world around them. Unlike a painter or sculptor, any two photographers can stand in the same place and create beautiful images of what they see through the lens of their camera. Both of these visions may be appealing to you as someone considering a piece of art for your home or business, but typically only one will stand out, or speak to you on a deeper level. In my opinion, this is the voice you should listen to when you consider a piece of nature or landscape photography because ultimately nothing else matters. A piece of fine art photography from a well-known artist currently valued at $35,000 may be worth $10,000 or less five years from now. In contrast, a piece from an up and coming artist currently costing just $1,000 hypothetically has much more room for growth in value as well as less investment risk. In addition, if you can find an artist whose work you appreciate for the art itself, you may be able to purchase multiple pieces from them, bringing even greater beauty and real value to yourself and those you are sharing this work with.

For example, world-famous photographer Peter Lik regularly commands prices in the tens of thousands for his work. He offers limited editions that can be as large as 950 pieces, including up to 45 artist proofs. If you purchase one of these pieces, say number 145/950, and the edition never sells out, chances are the piece you purchased will not increase in value over time because the gallery that sold you the piece is still offering this same piece in their collection. One way to determine the actual current value is to take a look on the auction site eBay. One of these same pieces that the gallery lists for $35,000 or more, may be currently offered from multiple sellers, for far below the price currently being offered by the gallery. If you purchase this piece today as an investment, you may find yourself needing to sell it at a time when the market is soft, causing you a significant loss on your investment.

These are just a few of the reasons that I suggest purchasing a piece that you fall in LOVE with first, considering its current and perceived value second to that. This will help protect you from potential disappointment and possible regret in the future. I am a fine art nature photographer who chooses to offer my work at a great value to my clients. Many of the pieces I sell have very low profit margins. While I do operate a successful business with my photography and hope to continue to do so in the near future, I also enjoy being able to offer my customers high quality fine art luxury nature photography at affordable prices.

Last week, a gentleman named Charles, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Phoenix, Arizona recognized this value and capitalized on it in a major way for him and his clients. A doctor’s or dentist office is the perfect place for high quality nature photography due to the aesthetic and soothing properties it can bring to those who view it. Instead of purchasing just one piece of fine art photography for $35,000 or more, Charles was able to purchase a total of 34 amazing pieces of limited edition artwork for his office, transforming it from an uninviting office building into an amazing art gallery! The pieces Charles purchased, were all Limited Edition Metal Prints that I offer ranging in size from fully framed pieces measuring 36″ wide x 24″ tall, all the way to 80″ wide by 43″ tall. The majority of these pieces were larger than 45″ x 30″. After receiving a large quantity discount, for just under $25,000 Charles was able to completely fill the large office as well as every single patient room with beautiful nature photography. In addition, the Limited Editions that I offer range from just 50 to 200 total pieces, with some of them already nearing 75% sold out. The potential for increased value in these pieces is very promising, but this value has already been surpassed by the peace and serenity that has been given to his clients on a daily basis.

The choice is yours, for LOVE or money, investment or real value. The images above and below this post are the ones Charles ultimately decided on and if you ever find yourself on the unfortunate end of serious injury in Phoenix, you may just find yourself in a room full of beautiful art. The much more pleasant way to go of course would be to visit my website at http://www.aaronreedphotography.com and choose a few pieces for yourself. As always, I want to say thank you to those of you that support up and coming artists like myself and hope you are able to appreciate my work for many years to come.

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Part IV: Don’t Ask Why, Ask What?

Welcome to part four of my don’t ask why series. In part one we asked why not and in part two we asked how? In part three we asked when and now we…. Ask what? If you are confused already, you may want to go back and read the first three parts of this series. I’ll be here waiting for you….

Now that you are all caught up, follow along with me and I will do my best to share my experience with you and some of the knowledge I have gained along the way. The question I am asked more than any other about my work is what sells and why. Many photographers start out by photographing well-known locations. These areas are often close to their homes and easily accessible so they provide a great opportunity to learn the basics of landscape & cityscape photography and to begin experimenting with their creativity. Other photographers scoff at anyone who photographs well-known locations and do everything in their power to get away from the masses and photograph only the things they perceive as being uncharted territory or off the beaten path. I fall somewhere in the middle, leaning a little further towards trying to photograph recognizable locations, but still trying to get to new areas when I can. Why does it matter you ask? The answer is that it doesn’t, unless you plan to sell your work.

Photographic Fine Art Prints

In my experience, the images that sell are rarely the images we expect to, or hope to sell. Whether it is a large print for someone’s home or office, or an image to be licensed by a business to promote a product, people want and need to connect with the image first. That amazing light that you captured in the back country of the Cascade Mountain Range on your last hiking expedition may make for a great cover of backpacking magazine but not much else. Why? Because the general population does not connect with an isolated area in the mountains. Now take an image of the Golden Gate Bridge. How many people do think have a connection to that in some way? The answer is millions. Does that mean you should only photograph well-known locations? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that you should know who your target audience is, what to market to whom and why.

I am sure that many of you have seen at least one image of the world-famous Japanese maple tree located in the Portland Japanese Garden. Those of us who have lived in or around Portland have photographed this in all seasons for many years. My first photograph of the tree was captured in 2007. My images of this tree have always been great selling pieces for me. Some people purchase prints of this tree simply because it is beautiful and others because it signifies change in their personal lives.

I sell large (up to 40″ x 60″) Metal prints of select pieces of my image collection that range in price from $1000 to $1500. Three of my images of this tree are limited editions of either 100 or 200 total pieces. My fall version of this tree, Living Lightning has sold 90 of the 200 pieces in this edition with the majority of those being large metal prints sold this past year. That being said, people want a beautiful piece for a decent price that has value to them. Producing work and then offering it up for close to nothing will NEVER yield you larger numbers of sales. I have seen many, many photographers fall into this trap including some who produce very nice work on a regular basis. If you are not selling 24″ x 36″ canvas prints for $300, dropping the price of them to $150 is the worst move you can make. Two things happen when you do this…your customers devalue your work as a whole and you yourself devalue your work in your own heart. Your work has real value…if you believe and act like it does. In case you have not seen them before, here are my three versions of the Japanese maple tree.

In addition to offering Fine Art Prints, there are two other main avenues you can take to generate income from your landscape, nature & cityscape photography. The first being retail sales and the second being stock photography. Both of these markets can be difficult to break into for different reasons. Stock Photography is big business and the market is flooded with imagery. In recent years, the revenue that quality stock photography can bring has decreased greatly due to changes in the market, how companies do business and the sheer volume of available material. Even with all of those facts aside, some of the “rules” that we learn in photography do not translate well into stock imagery.

For example, you probably have heard of the rule of thirds by now and have heard that it is a good idea to “fill the frame” with your subject in an effort to create an interesting composition. These are both great points and are widely expressed for a reason. If your goal is successful stock imagery, you should consider throwing these rules out the window….well, partially at least. Businesses need open space when creating layouts and they do not want your image to be so amazing that it competes for attention with the product they are trying to sell. As I mentioned before, they want the image to connect with the viewer, so popular destinations do very well. The three images below have all done very well for me. The first image, titled The Bay Bridge at Night, has sold over 3,000 copies online and in stores nationwide like Target & Kirklands. The second & third images are both in my Limited Edition collection and have sold well as fine art pieces and as stock photography.

The third area of potential revenue is the area of retail sales. Getting your work from its folder on your desktop to the retail shelves of your nearest Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond is not easy but can be done with hard work, a little luck and the right imagery. I currently have 3 images in the retail marketplace and 3 others in the pipeline as we speak. These types of prints typically sell at lower price point, but yield higher returns due to volume. Successful images in this area are composed of a combination of popular destinations and completely unidentifiable ones. For example, Golden Gate and New York bridge imagery does very well in retail. Ocean imagery works very well, but only if it is unrecognizable. As much as most of us love amazing mountain imagery, it does very poorly in my experience. Again, retailers want their customers as a whole to be able to connect these pieces with a trip to the beach, not a trip to a specific beach. Because of this, a long flat stretch of beach with no identifying landmarks is usually desirable. Retail art buyers also follow market trends very closely and these trends are based on colors and feelings. Entire store collections are based on these trends. It is crucial to understand how these trends work and what they are looking for in a piece. If retail sales are an area of interest for you, you can start by paying attention to what is currently being sold in your neighborhood stores. Stay tuned for the final part in this series titled Don’t Ask Why…Ask What Now? where I will share many of the ideas that have worked for me and how you can get out there and start selling your own work.

Thank you for taking the time to read & follow my blog. For those interested, Fine Art Prints of my work can be obtained through my website at http://www.aaronreedphotography.com and my imagery can be licensed through Tandem Stills & Motion here at https://tandemstock.com/browse?q=aaron+reed . I also offer in the field workshops & photo tours in Oregon, Washington & California and more information can be found here at http://www.exposurenorthwestphotography.com