The Old Banyan Tree

There are some things that I know are beautiful– like sunsets, or leaves falling, or simply landscapes passing by in a car. But some things are hard to capture in a photograph, and the end result is often either clich├ęd, or invisible, or simply blurry. This is probably testament to my experience in photography, which is, admittedly, minimal, but it still frustrates me when I see something but can’t capture it.

Thus, the old banyan tree.

When we first moved to Singapore, my mother and I went walking a lot. We’d just start and go somewhere or the other around the neighbourhood, and that was how she showed me the tree. It’s a beautiful tree, and majestic, and simply overwhelming. (I’m not certain it’s a banyan. Sue me.) It has roots that reach down till the pavement in constellations of branches, delicately weaving in and out of each other. The tree stretches up into an overhang. It projects an aura of history, of having witnessed a lot, of having been there for forever. I go biking regularly, and every time I do, I make a point to go past it. Every time, I can’t help myself from slowing down as I crest the hill it lies on top of, can’t help myself from looking back as my wheels pick up speed as I go down. When I got into photography, I knew that I had to take a picture of it– some day.

One day, I did. Walking in the Singapore afternoon, I carried my camera and went up to it. I wanted to capture it as I saw it. Little did I know how hard that would be.

One part of it is its location. It’s technically located in someone’s garden but is so big that it’s visible from the road. However, that location means that a hedge bisects it. There’s not enough space on the road in front for a full-frontal shot. The house in front is undergoing construction. There’s a lamp post in front of it. The branches are so thick and dense the tree is permanently half dark and half light.

It’s just not photogenic. Some things aren’t. Some things, I think I’ll have to accept, just can’t be captured in a picture.

That’s ok, though. That’s what memory’s for. That’s what living nearby’s for. That’s what real life’s for.

The Old Banyan Tree
Looking over that day’s pictures, I decided to do this side view in sepia. It’s ok, but doesn’t come close to capturing the tree. You do, however, get a fantastic view of the obstructions that cover it.