There’s something about trees that appeal to me in the landscape. I have always liked them and photograph them regularly. I’m not sure exactly what it is but something about their shape, majesty, intricacy and symbolism draws me to them as photographic subjects.
The tree really adds to the composition
The best place to photograph trees may not be a surprise as this would be a forest. The densely packed trees filter out harsh light and helps to create the atmospheric forest images. You will only realise when actually shooting in a woodland that it is quite challenging.
Sunny days are best avoided due to harsh streams of light breaking through a causing what I call ‘hot spots’ This also happens when shooting waterfalls/rivers. These ‘hot spots’ will easily overexpose and burn out in the image spoiling the effect you are trying to achieve. The contrast between light and shadows is greater on sunny days making it difficult for the camera to expose the scene losing detail in either the shadows or highlights.
Early morning light breaks through an illuminates the bluebells.
Cloudy days are great for forests as the light is diffused. The cloud acts like a diffuser on a flash gun spreading out the light rays into a scattered pattern. This effectively reduces harshness and shadows. Foggy mornings add an air of the mystic and this also helps to add separation to the trees at different depths.
The mist has created two distinct layers.
A misty morning diffuses the background and adds atmosphere.
Another misty morning in the woods.
TIME OF DAY
I prefer early mornings as the light is softer and at a lower angle. This side lights the trees more highlighting their shapes. There is also less contrast so shadow detail is greater.
Warm evening light in a pine wood.
TIME OF YEAR
Autumn offers the best colours.
Use your polariser to saturate the yellows and reds.
Autumnal colour at Holne, Dartmoor
Autumnal light illuminates this young tree and saturates the seasonal colours.
As with shooting water, if it’s sunny use a circular polariser. A polariser cuts down reflections on shiny surfaces. This is why a polariser saturate colours as it works on the reflected light off the leaves and grasses. Look for densely wooded areas on a sunny day and even light if possible. A polariser will have an effect on the saturation even when it’s overcast.
A polariser was used here to add punch to the colours. The sun was at right angles to increase the effectiveness of the filter
Use a zoom lens to close in on trees to compress perspective.
A long lens was used to zoom into the scene
Also with this one
A also used a long zoom to compress the tree trunks. I positioned the larger, closer trunk to the right side of the frame.
Tilting the camera adds an artistic edge to the shot
FOREGROUND AND BACKGROUND ELEMENTS.
Here, I included trees in the foreground too by standing beneath over hanging branches. They can also be used to 'fill' and uninteresting sky.
Here I have a similar result. A flat sky filled with trees.
Ditsworthy Warren House. This was the Dartmoor location for the filming of 'Warhorse'
Tripod. Essential for woodland shooting. A tripod is a must as exposure times will be long especially in ideal conditions, i.e low light and cloudy. Use your 2 sec timer or remote to reduce camera shake as the tripod may be sturdy but remember that the feet may be sitting on the soft forest floor.
If you wish to experiment with depth of field then longer exposure times will be necessary. Anything shot handheld as with most landscape photography is a compromise.
Tripods also slow you down. By taking your time you think more about the process and notice more around you.
Try different shots in one location. Just by moving the camera from side to side will change the dynamics of the photo. The closer trees will move more in relation to you than the ones further away.
Try to avoid over cluttered compositions by zooming in to isolate areas of trees.
When photographing groups of trees try to separate them as much as possible.
The trees are separated as much as possible.
Don’t forget to look up. A wide angle or fisheye lens works well this way by converging the trees above you.
Converging tree trunks are effective. The meeting point is also using the rule of thirds.
Most shots are taken at a normal standing height. Try setting your camera a foot off the ground for more dynamic compositions.
Simple compositions also work well.
Two trees in an empty field at different depths
This composition is similar but also has good lead in created by the shadows in the ruts in the grass.
Trees work very well as sillouhettes.
This simple compostion has been one of my most used photographs
Another taken in Sorrento. The palms add to the shot.
Another looking up at trees on a ridge allowing the full sky to sit behind them.
TIME OF YEAR
Trees often look more interesting when devoid of leaves, especiially on Dartmoor.
This leaning tree shows in it's shape just how harsh it's living environment is.
This was taken on Exmoor in late August
Although the tree is a small part of the image it is still an important addition.
Wistmans Wood in Autumn
The same scene in Winter
Lastly, take heed to where you are walking. You may be causing erosion or trampling on delicate wild flowers.
HERE ARE SOME MORE IMAGES TO FEED THE IMAGINATION
Snow coated trees
Forest track in the mist
Hoare Frost on pine trees. Haldon Forest
Ferns in the foreground
Looking up with a wide angle lens.