Charleston, South Carolina’s Angel Oak Tree is estimated to be somewhere around 400 – 500 years old, and is absolutely jaw dropping! It’s not the fattest tree we’ve ever seen, and it’s not the tallest tree we’ve ever seen… but the size of its limbs and how they stretch way out, and down to the ground is really something special to see. It is definitely worth the trip over to the free park for a look. If you’re wanting to photograph the tree though, there are a few things you’ll want to know.

When to photograph the Angel Oak Tree

Because the tree is so beautiful, it is a very popular tourist attraction. I would recommend showing up right when the park opens, and avoid Sundays (and Saturdays for that matter) when the park doesn’t open until 11. Holly and I tried to wait around until the park closed, and there were literally droves of people still showing up at closing time, and being turned around by the park employees. Weekday mornings are you’re only chance at getting the place to yourself.

How to photograph the Angel Oak Tree

The best way to photograph the tree is really in a panoramic image. Subsequently, this is also the best way to keep people out of your image if you happen to be there when there are lots of other visitors there. Take a tripod and set your camera on its side in a portrait orientation, then wait till no one is in the particular frame you’re shooting. Once you have a clean shot, move it slightly to the right (assuming you started at the far left of the image) and repeat, until you’ve captured the entire scene. After you’ve got all the images, stitch them all together in Lightroom or PTGui (or whatever your stitching software of choice is), and you’re good.

One quick side note, while I was there, it seemed there were a few frames near the trunk of the tree where there was always another visitor in the shot. My strategy here was to simply wait for them to move a bit. Even if they don’t move out of the frame altogether, say perhaps they move from one side of the frame to the other, as long as you get multiple images of the same frame, you can easily edit them out later. The image above took me about 45 minutes to capture because I had to wait around for people to move so much. Crazy!

At the end of the day though, I was really pleased with the image I got. I really wish they would get rid of all the signs, so it would look a little cleaner… BUT, oh well. Just a thought for the park, if anyone from the Angel Tree Park were to read this; I know I would happily have paid a fee to have access to the site outside of normal business hours. I’m positive other photographers would jump at this chance as well. That’d be a great way for the city of Charleston to get some extra revenue into the park, and help guys like me capture great images!

–Dan Thompson

Angel Oak Tree