Trees are sentinels of time. Some of the trees in our rainforest are over a thousand years old, others are giants among the canopy, towering 80m high – the equivalent of a 30-storey building.
But there are trees with equal majesty all around us – in our back yards, in a forgotten corner of the city, or perhaps on top of that hill you drive past to get to work every morning.
Environmental advocacy group EcoKnights wants us to capture images of such trees, and the stories they have to tell us, in its Sentinels Of Time photography competition.
“It’s time to get back in touch with our natural heritage and we aim to do this through the medium of photography,” says group founder and president, Yasmin Rasyid.
The idea is to get Malaysians to document, describe and locate trees in Selangor, through a competition which doubles as a platform to encourage more public participation in reforestation and conservation activities.
“Think wow factor,” says Yasmin, of the images which Ecoknights is looking for. “There is a picture of a road leading down to a Buddhist temple in Taman Megah (in Petaling Jaya, Selangor) which is lined with trees six to eight storeys high. The foliage meets at the centre and during Chinese New Year, lanterns are hung from the tops of the branches, so it feels like the trees are welcoming you.
“We want people to realise that a tree is not just a tree. It does more than just sit there. It serves a purpose, whether it is to provide shade, store water, or give shelter to birds and other insects. To some people, a particular tree may remind them of their childhood or an old quote.”
The rule is that the picture must be taken within the state of Selangor. There are RM25,000 worth of prizes and cash but the competition is not just about that, asserts Yasmin.
She says it is about getting people to explore parks and places which they have never thought of visiting before, and re-discovering majestic trees.
“We hope the images of trees will do more than just inculcate a fresh appreciation for them. We want people to re-think how development is changing our urban landscape (old trees being replaced with easy-to-maintain shrubs and palms, for example) and to protect old trees.”
The competition ends on Aug 30. Twelve of the best images will be exhibited at the 5th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival that will take place at Universiti Malaya from Oct 12 to 14. They will also be available for other exhibitions. For more information, go to ecoknights.org.my/sentinelsoftime/.