Saturday, June 21, 2014

Seeing The Forest Through The Trees

Have you every gone for a walk in the woods looking for something to photograph, only to find yourself overwhelmed by what seems to be a twisted mess of tree trunks and branches? The forest can easily come across as a mishmash of bushes, branches and tree trunks, at least it is here in the rain forests of south western British Columbia. The branches of pine, western hemlock, spruce and vine maple trees fill the canopy of the forest in the region. To top it off the trunks of the trees are often wrapped with thick moss, and the forest floor will be covered with various kinds of brush.

If all you see is this, you might feel overwhelmed by the forest
The first thing to do is stop and look around and try to find a sense of order in what, at first, appears to be chaos. Start to look for patterns, or smaller objects and use those as a starting point. If you have been using a wide angle lens for this type of photography, only to be frustrated, try something else. When I am photographing in the forest I often use a telephoto or macro lens, because I can better isolate the subject matter from what is around it.


For the photos above I used a 105mm macro lens to isolate the subject, by using a narrow depth of field. This provides the ability to create separation between the subject and the objects around it. The same thing applies for other items on the forest floor, like flowers. This is not to say that it is necessary to isolate a subject like this, but it can be helpful if you do not like how a group of items look together.

For many types of photography golden hour provides the best light, but when you are working the forest that may not always be the case. Light will come through the canopy in hot spots, which will make getting the correct exposure more difficult. Therefore a dark cloudy, even rainy day, can be the best for working in the woods. The rain is helpful because it will saturate the colours, making greens deeper. A circular polarizer is also a great tool to have at your disposal, as it will cut out reflections from the surface of leafs.

Finally, there are times when using larger items in the forest, like tree branches and shrubs, to frame something you would like the viewer to focus on. All of these tips can be summed up this way, it is simply a matter of finding balance, and patterns, in what might first appear to be a twisted mess.

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