Ponthus' Beech

Explored 19/06/2011


Prints available on my website HERE.


See the autumnal version.


This is a very special photo to me. Trees inspire me much respect, especially old and venerable ones: they witnessed the past, and will probably see a far future, unlike me.


This particular tree is a legend by himself. He even has a name: Ponthus' beech. He lives in the Brocéliande forest, in Bretagne (France), the one where many Arthurian legends occurred. One can also find Merlin's tomb here (well, at least one of them...). Different stories exist, but a common one is that Ponthus, a knight of the round table, lived in a castle there, somewhere around the 10th century. He was disappointed by the fact he had no child, and blasphemed about it. God punished him by destroying his castle in a storm, and the tree grew on its ruins.


While this tree is well known (he illustrates several photography books' covers), finding it is quite hard. Technically, he is located in a private part of the forest, theoretically forbidden to walkers. This is probably why very few information is available about his location. A long documentary research gave me several possibilities, which I entered as coordinates in a GPS device.


I then had to drive about 5h to reach the forest, and park on its side. This place is gigantic, and I met absolutely nobody. It was a fantastic experience to wander alone in these woods, exploring the locations possibilities in the hope of finding the mythical tree. I was quite lucky, and after only an hour of walk I was standing in front of it. I may be an emotional guy, but believe me, I was simply overwhelmed by the beauty of his shapes, the moss covering most of his trunk, and by the fact that he was the very only one of his kind (all the other trees in the area were straight, as you can see on the photo). I spent about 3h shooting it carefully, testing many angles, 3 different lenses, and waiting for the right light. Since the place was quite dark, I decided to use bracketing, which was extremely useful in post-processing to raise the dynamic range.


I really hope I will be able to go there many times again, and photography it at different seasons. It is quite a long day (mainly spent on the road), but it was so worth it. Did I mention I love this tree? :-)

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Taken on June 11, 2011