If A Tree Falls In A Forest

A stand of trees in a forest near the shores of the sea in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina.

If a tree falls in a forest, will anybody hear the forest call? This post explores the concept, if a tree falls in a forest, as well as notions of perception and reality and how they may influence the way you approach your own photography.

The above photo of a beautiful stand of trees in a forest was made, near the shores of the sea, in the Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina, right down the bottom of South America.

You’ll be pleased to know that, even if one or more of these beautiful trees has fallen since I made this picture, the photo is proof of their existence.

The photo also explores my response to being fortunate enough to have witnessed the trees and shared in their reality, even if only in the most cursory way.

A stark view south from Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina at the bottom of South America.

Perception Is Reality

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
— George Berkeley

Is the above quote, from George Berkeley, one with which you're familiar? It's a philosophical quote that deals with observation and perception.

You might say that the tree doesn't need you or me around to know that it has fallen and that such postulations reek of the incessant need for humans to put ourselves at the centre of all understanding.

Fair enough!

Perception Is Reality

Still, given that's what we do, the idea explored in Berkeley's question is that perception is reality by which I mean the reality each of us creates for ourselves.

That's a notion with which I agree completely.

Trees, illuminated by gentle light, on the edge of a forest in Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina.

What is Reality?

After all, what is reality? It’s an intriguing question for the artist photographer.

Thank goodness for the camera, as recording device, and for the artist photographer’s ability to imbue the scene depicted with emotion and meaning.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Some might say that, with no one there to witness the tree falling, we have no proof of the event and, by implication, it matters not.

I suppose the whole argument gets back to where we place ourselves in relation to the rest of existence. We can explore that argument through the following questions:

  • Is reality, as we perceive it, action occurring within our immediate zone of influence that's registered through our sensory organs?

I think so and some of those same sensory organs allow us to discover more of what's going on in the world via the media, whether traditional or social, even if it's from the comfort and safety of our own home or workplace.

I’m sure the buffer associated with technology allows us to see so much devastation without having to absorb it in quite the same way as if we were there, in the moment.

However, this second hand experience of reality seems to me to be grossly insufficient.

While I don't want to experience an earthquake or Tsunami first hand, I do want to explore much more of the beauty of our world and its people through personal immersion and interaction.

Tree bark in Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina.

Existence and Reality

I find the concept that if a “tree falls in a forest …” to be fascinating. But how relevant is the concept to our understanding of our natural world and our place within it?

  • Do we humans have to witness something before it comes into reality as a subject, object, event or happening?

  • Are we really that important?

Of course not!

Just because you don’t know something or someone doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They simply exist outside of your current experience.

The existance of the trees, in the forest by the sea, where I wandered and photographed are a great record of my visit to the Tierra del Fuego National Park in southern Argentina.

But the existance of those lovely trees is not dependent upon my visit or the photographs I made.

It’s the interpretation of my experience, exploring the quiet light on the edges of the forest, that’s important. At the very least I hope my photos speak to the value of preserving such places in our natural world.

I suppose we should be thankful for the TV, newspaper and the internet without which the world outside our normal everyday experience might not exist, at least in the minds of certain philosophers.

A small clearing in a forested area in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina.

The Experience Of Travel

But what of travel?

The experience of travel is that it brings into existence landscapes, people and cultures other than those in our own backyard.

Travel, whether abroad or closer to home, allows us to experience and document our response to our ever changing world.

Whether your understanding of the notion if a tree falls in a forest remains conceptual or is actually based upon your own, first hand experience is up to you.

There is no doubt that being an armchair traveller allows us to learn about the tremendous diversity of our world and its peoples in a safe and cost effective manner. And we might never miss a meal in doing so.

Nonetheless, there is no substitute for actual, first hand experience. That’s the reason I have to travel, whenever I can.

Forest Path, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

About To Travel?


The Art Of Creation

Perhaps this discussion is best left to the philosophers. That seems like a reasonable point of view.

However, I do believe that as meaning-seeking, creative beings we are involved in the act of creation through the art we produce.

Making photos allows me to participate, at a deeper level, with the reality I'm experiencing through my camera’s viewfinder at the time the shutter is released.

What's more, by sharing my images through this site and via social media, I'm bringing awareness of the beauty of our world and its people to an ever wider audience.

My photos, therefore, enrich peoples lives by providing them with glimpses of existance beyond our normal, every day experience.

I also believe that my photos provide folks with inspiration and motivation to get off the couch and experience the world for themselves.

Receding glaciers encourage many folk, who are able to do so, to visit these spectacular locations while they can.

Likewise the poetic notion, if a tree falls in a forest, may encourage us town and city dwellers to get back to nature and appreciate the transforming experience that awaits us when we spend time in the natural world.

While we share events with others as we travel, the experience of our journeys is a more personal affair. For some of us travel can be akin to a pilgrimage and photography can be the vehicle by which our creative journey can best be explored and recorded.

Photography As Art

Why do you make photos?

I only ever wish to make positive, life-affirming images. The desire is to celebrate our world and build bridges of understanding between cultures.

While the notion that if a tree falls in a forest is sad that would not stop me from photographing such an event, as it happens, or the same site afterwards.

After all, just as the tree grows by drawing water and nutrients from the earth, the fallen tree returns, over time, back into the soil.

And so the wheel of life continues.

Be Positive

That concept is also true for our thoughts. Positive thoughts are, by their very nature, creative while negative thoughts are destructive.

The relationship between thoughts and actions is important. We should all watch our thoughts as they, so easily, become our words and our actions.

That's a good reason to catch those negative thoughts before they're fully formed. Doing so on a regular basis will greatly reduce how often they reoccur in the future.

Given that thoughts are manifested into actions, controlling our thoughts is yet another way by which each and every one of us can help to save this world in which we live.   

Gorgeous glowing light seems to radiate from this forest in the Tierra del Fuego National Park in southern Argentina.

If A Tree Falls In The Forest Joke

It may be that this post is too philosophical. While I often delve into spirituality on this site I may have bitten off more than I can chew this time around.

If you’re beginning to worry that I'm suddenly taking myself a bit too seriously, perhaps it’s time for some humor. Admittedly this joke falls into the old school variety.

If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears, does that mean he’s still wrong?
— Anon

A question for the ages, you might say.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru