A Year in the Life of a Tree

It’s a simple concept: Photograph the same tree from the same spot every day for a year. But Mike Pach had no idea his “Same Tree, Different Day” series would impact his life and perspective so much he’d eventually give dozens of lectures about it, including one at the Canadian Mental Health Association Conference in 2019.

Inspiration: One day while working from home, Pach noticed the tree in the park behind his home was covered in snow and ice. He set his camera on a tripod in the backyard and made a photo. “Later that afternoon the thought hit me to take a photo of the tree every day for a year just to see what would happen.”

©MIKE PACH

Parameters: Once he got started, he realized he needed ground rules. He set two rectangular pavers in his yard to stand on so he could photograph the tree from the same vantage point each day. “I then made sure my camera was level horizontally and I lined up the right edge of the frame with the trunk of the smaller tree that’s to the right of the main tree,” he says.

Working from home allowed him to monitor the changing scene all day for photo opportunities. Pach had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia several years earlier and was worried that without his long hikes in the Colorado mountains he wouldn’t be creative. “So I set out to prove that I could be creative in a confined area.”

©MIKE PACH

Challenges: One, staying motivated. He set up a wall calendar, marking each date with an X when he made a tree photo and posted it to his blog. He also challenged himself to make sunrise shots (even though he’s not a morning person), setting his alarm 15-30 minutes before sunrise to assess the sky. “If there were clouds in the sky, it meant there was a good chance the sunrise would be colorful,” he says.

Lessons learned: He learned that practicing mindfulness benefited his photography and that setting a daily goal is good for mental health. “We all have brilliant ideas for projects,” says Pach. “The problem is that most of us never follow through.” He advises photographers to just do it. Getting started is the hardest part.