Taking photographs in dense woods and forests can be a real challenge, even for very experienced photographers. Often the difficulty of forest photography is creating a harmonious photo composition from the chaos and intricate detail of the trees.
Wistman’s Wood, an ancient stunted oak forest in the heart of Dartmoor, Devon, England, is a beautiful place and is a favourite photo location for forest photography. It’s hard to visit these woods and not be seduced by the notion of pixies, fairies and other Tolkien world delights.
However, despite its immediate beauty, it’s hard to translate this into a picture. So, to help make visual sense of the chaotic composition, here we’ll show you how to give your forest photography symmetry by splitting it in half and flipping it.
Combine the symmetrical Photoshop effect with a split-tone treatment so that the highlight and shadow areas are rendered with slightly different hues and you’ll create a wonderful arty image that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern gallery.
This creative technique is quite addictive, and while maybe not to everyone’s tastes, it’s worth experimenting with and looks great on other subjects too. Read on to find out how it’s done…
How to shoot and edit forest photography to resemble a Tolkien world
Keep things steady
Even on a bright, sunny day the exposure times will be considerably reduced in the depths of a wood, so it’s essential to use a sturdy tripod to keep your camera stable. Select your camera’s Mirror Lock-up function and use a cable release to further minimise vibration as you fire the shutter.
Split tone in raw
Use Photoshop to tint the highlights yellow and the shadow areas blue. In Adobe Camera Raw, make the image mono using the HSL/Greyscale tab. Go to the Split Tone tab and set the Highlights Hue slider to 60 and Saturation to 35. Set the Shadows Hue slider to 240 and Saturation to 75.
Now open the image in Photoshop CS or Photoshop Elements and select half the image with the Rectangular Marquee tool. Copy the selection and paste it into a new layer. Go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. Use the Move tool to reposition the new selection so the scene is symmetrical.
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