I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Shooting Autumn Woodlands


‘Autumn’, Thirlmere Reservoir, Cumbria
Fujifilm X-Pro2, XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS @ 100mm, 1/9 sec @ f/8 ISO 200
LEE Seven5 Polariser Filter.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod with 405 geared head.
Adobe Lightroom..

“Trees are hugely popular subjects; they represent nature in it’s most majestic guise and offer visual metaphors for the human condition in abundance.”

Shooting Autumn Woodlands

For many of us, late autumn is a favourite time of year for landscape photography, and resplendent arboreal colour displays like this create spellbinding scenes. Trees are hugely popular subjects; they represent nature in it’s most majestic guise and offer visual metaphors for the human condition in abundance. Strength, resilience and survival share the stage with individuality and vulnerability, and with the falling autumn leaves, we are reminded of the transient nature of our existence. These subliminal representations have universal appeal, transcending language, they are understood by all. Photographer and viewer, are afforded a priceless primitive resonance to intensify the depth of our visual communication.

One major difficulty in photographing scenes like this is that the chaotic mishmash of branches offers a challenging environment for composition as we try to frame our scene to create some order. Choosing a viewpoint that offers spatial separation; layering trees or groups of trees against a more diffuse or homogenous backdrop, is often rewarding. Juxtaposition of different colours, tones and textures is also important and can be helped photographically by judicious control of depth-of-field; intentionally rendering backgrounds out of focus by using relatively large apertures and telephoto lenses.

Overcast weather lends itself beautifully to photographing woodland; indeed bright sunny days make it virtually impossible to create successful photographs because of the huge dynamic range created by brilliantly lit foliage contrasting with the blackness of dense shade. A dense cloud-base creating a woodland scene that appears dull and flat to the naked eye can create unexpected photographic magic, preserving all the shadow and highlight detail and creating a gentle pastel palette.

The intensity of variation in autumnal colour is most marked quite late in the season; early November is often the best time. If we are fortunate, mist can also start to appear around this time of year, providing an additional benefit in the quest for textural layering. Surprisingly my image was made while huddling under an umbrella in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. The misty appearance is due to all the rain falling between the foreground and background trees. The resultant Raw file was relatively contrast-less; when processing, I expanded the contrast slightly while still respecting the original palette and hopefully allowing those metaphors to sing.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.