Underneath a tree, the roots are really the workhorse that holds the tree to the earth, fighting the winds and the heavy snows, and struggling to dig deeper into the earth, pushing through and around granite rocks, seeking more grip and more nourishment.
In the high Meadows, the soil is very shallow indeed; not far underneath is granite, either solid or boulder-laden. So, when a seedling takes root, and the roots bump into stone, they get bent and twisted as they struggle mightily to go downward. Going sideways as a last resort, they may bump into other boulders, and get even more contorted. That struggle is evident here.
Lacking root-depth, a tenuous grip on the earth results, and strong winds and heavy snows topple many would-be giants.
This particular tree was about 50 feet tall, not a giant by Sierra standards. For many years its exposed roots were washed by the rain and snow, as it lay near the edge of the Meadows.
This photo was taken in 1981; by the turn of the century the roots would become gray from the bleaching action of the sun.
Which way is "up" in this image? "Whichever way you prefer" is probably the best answer. Usually, a landscape image is oriented to the earth, but in this case these are roots underneath a fallen pine in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows. In a sense we are looking "up" at the roots from underneath the tree. You might try different orientations --- each has a different "feel".