Importance of expanding your skillset: Woodland Photography Talk
It is 2009. A film camera is pressed into my hands for the very first time. ‘Go and take pictures’ I’m told. The film develops a few hours later and it is somewhat underexposed, however, my life has changed. That sounds very dramatic but developing my own images into prints, regardless of the image quality, was an excitement I’d never experienced before. It felt very rewarding and that day I learnt that there was more to photography than simply taking a snapshot.
Multiple rolls of film and several projects later, my skills at exposing images became a little better although I cannot say much for my composition skills. I experimented with various types of photography and concluded that portraiture was the most interesting. Landscape photography could quite frankly leave through the darkroom door and not look back. It was difficult. Not one ounce of enjoyment to be had.
Fast forward to today where I am, in fact, a landscape photographer. I’m sure if you would have told me in 2009 that this was where I would end up, I’d have laughed in disbelief. Look back upon the last 5 years of your life, it’s probably safe to say that you are a completely different person. We are constantly changing, learning, and growing to become new and different people. In another 5 or even 10 years, I’m sure when I look back my photography career will be dramatically different again. I’m quite excited by that thought. I can only keep improving with time and I know this because I already have.
I am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge and skillset in photography. Once I started to crack landscape and outdoor photography, I suddenly became drawn to woodland photography. Ask a photographer and most will say woodland is the most difficult type of photography to master. I understood I would probably produce more failed images than successful, to begin with, but I wanted to try and create beautiful images of nature. I believed this expansion would challenge and improve my composition skills, something I desired to work on anyway in my landscape work. When deciding this project needed to happen, I was living in South Korea at the time. The forests there are few and far which left me craving the good old British woods I remember walking through when I was younger. Trees of all shapes and sizes. Twisted trunks and roots stretching across the ground. Moss laden forests.
Since returning I have been able to get started on this woodland project and it has further unlocked my naturalist soul. I love trees and my most used phrase is definitely ‘now THAT’S a great tree!’ I should put it on a t-shirt.
Not only do I enjoy scouting for the craziest looking trees I can find but I discovered so much joy and peace being surrounded by forest. Do you know what, woodland photography isn’t as hard as I expected? It’s still not easy and I have a lot to learn from the masters, however, each time I take more images I feel my confidence grow and I learn something new.
As Summer starts to come to an end, I want to briefly look back on a couple of shots I have enjoyed capturing over the past couple of months.
COOPERS HILL WOODS
I’m going to start with the best first. The idea that I could have easily walked past these trees at Coopers Hill Woods is appalling. A reminder to keep those eyes always peeled! Luckily, I didn’t march straight past this scene and instead was drawn to it like a magnet. I don’t think I need to explain why. These must be some of the best tree roots I have come across, so far. I can’t decide whether it looks as though these two trees are fighting for space on the edge of elevated ground or holding onto each other, so they do not topple over. Either way, the interlocking roots create this incredible window that sees through to the other side. It was as I was trialling compositions that I spotted a tree stump on the other side. Placing my camera and tripod in the correct place meant that I was able to capture all these elements in one image. This took some time; however, the result is magical.
At the time, an imitate image worked well. I’d love to return to this very spot in alternative conditions and play around with different focal lengths and weather. Can you imagine a bit of fog or a soft early morning glow to create an ethereal image?
THE FOREST OF DEAN
I just recently began to explore the Forest of Dean. The potential in this forest for tree photography feels endless. I had no idea where to begin but two scouting days later, one producing images and a video, had helped me get started. Here are three images I took not too long ago; one did not work while the other two did.
The one that didn't:
I love the composition of this image. It is, however, being stored in the ‘test shot for another day’ folder. I’ve had a few comments by other photographers and non-photographers that there isn’t really anything wrong with this image and a bit of light retouching may help improve it. It is very interesting to see the perspective of another person and showed how hard I can critic my images.
I did take a stab at editing this image. I like to keep my post-processing style as natural as possible. Altering the tone of the image, particular colours to make subjects pop or dodging and burning ultimately did not help me like it. The light and tones in this scene out of the camera are very flat. It was a cloudy day and I distinctively remember this area being dark due to a lack of natural light filtering through the trees. There is little dynamic range and instead of over-processing this image until it looked useable, I decided to accept it was not my best work and use it as future inspiration. This image may make me analyze light conditions a little more, especially in such a dark area, and perhaps I will approach this composition differently next time.
The ones that did:
I did manage to capture these images on the same day with improved lighting. I’m generally not one for one toned image, something that I thought would put me off summer woodland photography, but it turns out I don’t mind an all-green tree capture. (Now blue-toned images are something that will take me a lot longer to be able to enjoy)
This image is very busy. It was almost impossible to keep the edges of the photograph clean without lots of little distracting details poking into the shot such as the tips of ferns or stray branches. There just happened to be a little sunlight peeking through
the trees in the background creating a large contrast with the dark foreground. ‘Whoa that’s dark over there’ I remember saying. I quite like the element of the underexposed trees in the foreground as it frames those behind it. It pulls you further into the image, your eye is drawn to the light, and it makes you curious about what you may find deeper in the forest.
I’m doing my best to be conscious about trampling on as little nature as possible in these locations, therefore I did not go and explore those trees more closely. Perhaps, while watching where I put my feet, I will do so next time. You never know, there may be an even better shot further through.
WHY is it important to try new types of photography? Improving your current skills and expanding your skill-set is generally a good idea. This can open you up to a wide range of potential projects you can get stuck into. Especially if you are looking to build a photography career or a social media audience with your images. Creating a solid foundation of skills is going to take you a long way. Various types of photography may require differing skills however there will be knowledge that will cross over multiple subjects. For example, learning a new skill for portrait photography, such as depth of
field, could then end up useful in wedding photography. Learning to focus stack with macro photography could then come in handy in landscape photography. You do not have to stick to one type of photography if you do not wish to. As I mentioned previously, we are constantly changing and that includes our likes and interests. A new project, whether for work or personal gain, could very well bring in new people and introduce them to your portfolio. You may also become inspired by other photographers in that field, learn a few names and swap a few business cards.
Seeing as Autumn is just around the corner, I’m sure I will continue to capture my local forests and woodlands. As the leaves turn colour and we get more misty mornings I have no doubt I will not run out of subjects to photograph. I’m sure you’ll see me back here again raving about how amazing Autumn Woodland Photography is soon. I also have plans to keep pushing my photography forwards in new directions. I wish to focus on more intimate details of locations, such as a forest, concentrating on smaller elements, textures, and patterns. I will also be trying out some food photography within the next few months as my sister builds her Glutenless Paige brand. Now that I think about it, food photography feels like it could be a lot harder than Woodland Photography. I’ll let you know how that one goes.
If you wish to keep up to date on my work, feel free to pop back to my website at any time to watch videos, read new blog posts and see new images. You can also find me on social media, links down below. Thank you for reading and see you next time.
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