Updated: Feb 11, 2022
I love my local woodland area.
It’s a place I visit often to wander among the trees, listen to the birds singing, notice tiny creatures that scurry around under the woodland canopy, experience an ever-changing natural environment and simply be close to nature.
I have taken many photographs in this woodland; photographs of trees or flowers, photographs of bridges or streams, photographs of leaves or forest carpet, and it is a place where I have had opportunities to practise some of my photography skills, yet I haven’t considered that I might be doing woodland photography.
To me woodland photography is something different; something difficult, more specialised. I think I have shied away from doing woodland photography when I have compared the tangled mess which my attempts have produced with the amazing images produced by woodland photographers such as Nigel Danson, Mads Peter Iversen and Simon Baxter, which seem to be taken in similar places.
The joy that I feel when walking in woodlands and my desire to make images wherever I go has ignited my interest and I have been learning some techniques through videos from the master woodland photographers.
There are good reasons to try to improve at woodland photography, apart from the fact that it is so accessible since many of us will have at least some small, wooded area close to home.
You feel close to nature. This is a big bonus that comes with woodland photography. While wider landscapes can fill us with awe at their vast beauty, it is the small sounds, the littlest creatures, the wonderful diversity of colour, the gradual changes from season to season that are noticeable in a woodland.
Simon Baxter, a well-known UK woodland photographer, uses his YouTube channel to stress the benefits of having an emotional connection to the landscape and the joy of spending time in the outdoors with a camera (and a dog!) https://www.instagram.com/baxter.photos/
Woodlands really are nature’s stage; they show off nature at its best.
Being close to nature, becoming so familiar with the woodland landscape that you are almost at one with nature, has a calming effect on mind and body. It is a soothing balm that can lift our spirits as we wander around breathing in all that mother nature has to offer.
There is great diversity in a woodland landscape. Woodlands and forests are an important part of our landscape and indeed our whole ecosystem.
For anyone interested in nature photography they provide an amazing abundance of opportunities to capture life at its fullest in all seasons.
For those who want to create woodland images, even at the most basic level woodlands provide a rich tapestry of colour, texture, shape and form, all building blocks of a good image.
Woodlands provide an abundance of photo opportunities. It may be due to my excitement on becoming a recent convert to woodland photography, but I continually find an abundance of opportunities to make images in woodlands and forests.
This might seem to be a strange claim since forests and woods are just full of trees, yet when you truly observe the environment around you in a forest there are countless opportunities to frame an image. You just need some know-how.
Dag Ole Nordhaug is a landscape photographer who excels at forest photography. He says,
“Many think of landscapes as static subjects, but I find that a scene rarely is the same from one day to another. Light, shadow, seasons, moon-phase and tide are all dynamic processes continuously altering the character of a place. I often visit the same location again and again, always searching for new light and compositions.” https://www.instagram.com/dag.ole.nordhaug/
Woodlands vary with the seasons. Whether you like to photograph when the natural world has taken on the reds, browns and oranges of autumn, when fog gives you a beautiful backdrop to your images and provides a natural separation between elements in what can be a chaotic woodland scene, when trees hold their branches in lacy patterns against the sky or when snow turns your favourite woodland into a winter wonderland, you will have all these opportunities and more as the woodland reveals the secrets of each season.
Woodlands give opportunities for using all types of techniques. While being a training ground for learner photographers is not the primary purpose of woodland photography, it does present us, as photographers, with a chance to use a range of techniques to enhance our images.
Using a shallow depth of field to create a blurry background, a slow shutter speed to create a long exposure, shooting upwards or getting down low to shoot will all help us create more unique images and to develop as photographers.
Woodlands provide opportunities to refine composition skills. A woodland often appears to be a chaotic, messy environment, where branches are tangled together, and trees overlap in their quest for space to grow. Finding a good composition in the midst of this chaos can prove challenging, but it is in taking up this challenge that we will improve our composition techniques and grow as photographers.
In a woodland we must try to isolate a main subject, something that will stand out for the viewer and provide an interesting focal point. Our image will also need to have a sense of balance. Complementary colours will add to the impact of the scene and other composition techniques, such as use of a leading line or natural framing, could also be used to accentuate the chosen subject.
You will usually find a woodland close to home. As I mentioned in my introduction, one of the main reasons that I have been taking photos in my local woodland area is because it is close to my home, and I can visit often.
While for many of us a suitable coastal landscape or a location with epic vistas may be a few hours’ drive away, we often have wooded areas right on our doorstep.
I am lucky to have a choice of woodlands and forests near my home but even for those who don’t there are often wooded areas in local parks or places where groups of trees grow together, ideal for getting started and practising some woodland photography techniques.
I hope I have whetted your appetite for trying some woodland photography and that you will join me on this exciting new departure.
A good starting point might be the YouTube videos of Mads Peter Iversen https://www.instagram.com/madspeteriversen_photography/ . Iversen is a woodland photographer who provides inspiration and tips to help viewers progress through their own woodland photography.