Forest for the Trees
Getting out with your equipment for some woodland photography can be very rewarding, in fact might just be one of the best activities you can do. Hiking a few miles through a forest is not only healthy for your heart it also lowers your blood pressure leaving you rewarded with as sense of serenity and calmness. Get your camera and head out.
The forest offers many opportunities for photographers, especially those who appreciates a nice woodland forest. The most challenging thing today is actually finding un-disturbed tree groves. Once you get past that hurdle, photographic opportunities are bountiful.
Tips & Tricks for photographing the forest interior: I start with a simple philosophy - keep it simple and carry just "enough", this simply means I normally carry a wide angle and normal lens. Something around 24mm and a 45 or 50mm and of course I never leave my three legged friend behind - my tripod always goes out with me to ensure my images have a good chance of not being blurry, as the interior of the forest does restrict light. + you might just find a nice waterfall and wish to use a longer exposure to smooth out the water.
- Finding compositions: Sounds simple. but in reality it may be a bit more difficult to get the exact composition you are looking for. When you come around the trail and find a good spot thinking this is it! but then get frustrated due to the light is coming from the wrong side or a tree is simply blocking your perfect shot. When I am faced with those situations I simply take my time, walk around the area and normally find a good composition. Something with foreground, mid ground and a distance framed just right to draw the viewer into the shot.
Dealing with Extremes: One of the most challenging things about woodland photography is the extreme differences between highlights and shadows. So, unless I specifically need to include the tree tops in my image I try to avoid the sky and compose a more tighter image. This reduces the dynamic range and your camera has a better chance of getting an image you can tweak in your post processing workflow. I use a Sekonic 858 light meter to acquire a good starting point, once you learn how to use the Sekonic 858 you can simply dial in the settings it shows and take the photo.I have an article on the 858 as well, link below.
Composing your Shot: I don't have too much advice here as this aspect comes from experience and your perspective and the lens angle you are using. General advice, and you heard it before, try to include a foreground, mid ground, and distance, this help draw the viewer into your shot. Use nature lines, like the edge of a creek leading the viewers eye to a point, or the angles of the trees. I enjoy the wide angle lenses but sometime a normal lens angle works best as it forces you to concentrate on the main point / subject.
- All Else Fails: Sometimes things don't work out. but the shot can be used in other ways - I have had situations when I simply blew the exposure, but I processed it as a black and white and added the shot to my creative files. What I am trying to say, even when the light or situation may not render a perfect photo - you can use the opportunity to get a good image through alternate processing.
White Balance: This is a challenge. Allowing you camera to decide the white balance when you are inside a forest lit by either overcast or sunlight can cause you lots of editing during post. The only thing I can say is get your self a X-Rite Color Checker - this will save you many hours of guessing. Otherwise be prepared to manually determine the best White Balance for each session of shooting. Sure, you can use lightroom or photoshop to auto correct, but guess what? A x-rite color checker profile shot on location is rock solid and can be imported into Lightroom and used as the default. Using it can be as simple as holding it out and taking a photo of the colorchecker in the environment you are shooting in. Lightroom has built in support for Colorchecker.
- Get out and go shoot, sometimes getting started is the hardest part but once you are there - it is all worth it.
Thanks for looking through the blog post and the Woodland photographs, best part is I had a wonderful time taking these.
- Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED PC-E
- Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED PC-E