Photographing Japanese Maples

We at Davidsan’s get a lot of questions about Japanese Maple Photographs. One thing everyone should understand is that color and leaf form really depend on where you live and where you place it (amount of sun etc) and age of plant . Yearly weather patterns, and yearly soil moisture can also drastically effect color, leaf shape, plant height and many so called absolutes of JM’s. A JM will basically look like a specific named cultivar as described and photographed but you can have variations depending on the above… some may be minor some pretty dramatic. And a young tree will usually never have the trees true characteristics for several years even in JM perfect areas. This is especially true with variegated varieties or those with odd coloration or leaf forms. If you have grown JM’s for any amount of time you will already know this to be true.

So here are some Q&A concerning this subject.


Q: When is the best time to photograph JMs and when do you try to do so for this web site

A: Simply put, in the mid to late spring


The leaves will always look there best in spring . They will be free of pest marks and sun damage. Yes,  in fall they can be spectacular, but color varies so much from year to year as all Acers do, and you will have a hard time finding perfect leaves that don’t need extensive photoshoping..

The spring coloration is usually pretty much the same for everyone regardless of local weather patterns… and even seems to be less  affected by soil type etc. Therefore what you see on a particular web site, if photos are taken in spring, will be pretty much what you will get in spring.

The one caveat, it is best not to take photos very early in spring if you plan to show what the leaves and tree actually looks like. If you take the fabulous looking young just “bud broke” leaves you are NOT giving a real representative look of what the tree actually looks like for other than a few days. Of course if you are just taking them as art why not. The only exception to this is those few JMs that constantly shoot out new bunches of leaves through most of the season and are known for that.

Q: Why can’t you have full tree photos on your site

A: Simply put … most look dopey.

Most JMs are planted around a lot of other companion trees bushes etc and it is very hard to get a true idea of what the individual JM looks like.

Even ones that are stand alone specimen trees tend to be understated in photographs but may look boffo in your yard. There are a few larger specimens of a size that you can actually get a feel for but they are exclusively large dissectums with a thick bushy look.

For most of us who get into JM’s we plant them not for others BUT FOR OURSELVES. Of course we want to show them off and for them to look great in our yards or patios. But you can buy any generic JM dissectum or upright and achieve that. For us “connoisseurs it’s “the look”, and that look is generally from near firstly and afar secondly . Thus the closer photos of trees and branches along with a description of form and approximate size works great.


Q. Why can’t you have photos of the trees showing all seasons

A. Simply put: That would be nice but are you nuts?

As I have already said there is so much variation from area, weather, age,  and from year to year it would be a real wast of time unless we wanted to make a book of trees without names.

Taking a picture of just one tree in one season takes approximately 1 hour. The process starts by taking a bunch of different shot at different angles, in different light, and backgrounds to be able to show the tree best and most accurately. Then begins the arduous tasks of downloading the photos; picking out the best one; cropping, sizing, straightening; and uploading two different sizes to our web site.

If we were to do that to over 350 cultivars in three seasons and some four (winter for Griseum and color and rough bark cultivars and some conifers). Well, we would be sure to own stock in the nearest psychiatric facility where we would end up in short order.

I hope this answers a few questions on photography, particularly in respect to this web site and use of photos for informational purposes, and help in choosing that special cultivar.