Into the Woods - tyneholm
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Into the Woods

Into the Woods

Assignment L30

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise! Woodland interiors are full of picture potential, and for this assignment you will need to visit a local wood in pursuit of photos. The appearance of woodland can vary tremendously depending on its age and size, and also the season. Ancient deciduous woodland will typically provide the best photo opportunities, but rows of regimental conifer plantations can also create striking photographs. 

Unsurprisingly, spring and fall tend to be the best times of year to shoot woodland interiors. During spring, foliage is fresh and vibrant, while your shots might also benefit from seasonal carpets of flowers. Meanwhile, in fall, the green pigment (chlorophyll) breaks down, revealing fiery colors (carotenoids and anthocyanins).  Dry, sunny weather combined with cool nights trigger this intense, photogenic palette of red, yellow, and orange. The best fall color tends to be during October and November in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Inspiration

  • Regardless of what time of year you decide to shoot woodland, light is the key. Although less dramatic, the flat light on cloudy, overcast days suits woodland photography. Contrast is low, helping the camera to capture rich, authentic colors.
  • Low morning or evening sunlight can create truly stunning conditions in woodland, backlighting foliage and filtering between trunks. Low sunlight will cast long, inky shadows across the woodland floor, and you can use these compositionally as compelling foreground interest and lead-in lines.
  • Visit when it is misty. Not only will fog help simplify the look of woodland, but it will add mood and mystery, and even give your shots an eerie feeling.
  • Don’t just shoot conventional viewpoints. Lie on your back and shoot upward with a wideangle or fisheye lens to exaggerate the height of trees and make them appear more imposing.
  • You can also try some intentional camera movement (ICM) (see page 114), or even a zoom burst. By zooming the lens during the exposure, you can create streaks of color and light bursting from the center of the frame.

View the images

Technique

  • Always attach a polarizing filter when photographing woodland. Rotate the filter until glare reflecting off the leaves is reduced or eliminated, and natural saturation restored. 
  • Short telephoto lens lengths (about 60- 100mm) are well suited to woodland photography, allowing photographers to isolate areas of the scene and create more refined compositions.

Special Kit

  • Polarizing filter

Field Notes

  • Avoid bright, overhead sunlight when shooting woodland interiors. Sun-dappled woodland floors might look good to the human eye, but a high level of contrast will make it tricky for your camera to record both highlight and shadow detail. 
  • Woodland is a truly chaotic environment, and one that photographers often struggle with compositionally. Without forethought and care, your shots can look messy and lack focus. Keep compositions simple and look for balance and order. Try using pathways, rivers, a fallen trunk, or a stump to help anchor your composition-this will create a point of interest and imply depth.