Forest Photography: tips for capturing the essence of your local woodland

Forest Photography: tips for capturing the enchanting essence of your local woodland

Wandering through woodland in summer, who can fail to be inspired by these colossal natural structures towering high above? Yet trying to convey this through our images is a challenge and one that is not easy to meet. In this tutorial, seasoned pro Mark Hamblin shares some of his best forest photography tips for capturing the enchanting essence of your local woodland.

Forest Photography: tips for capturing the enchanting essence of your local woodland

All images by Mark Hamblin

Woodlands are by their very nature quite chaotic, and while our eyes can take everything in, our forest photography can look cluttered or lack focus. So if your forest photography is not quite what you hoped, we have some solid advice to pep up your images when you go down to the woods this month.

Come rain or shine, woodlands present a plethora of photographic potential that is just waiting to be captured. But first you need to arm yourself with some basic forest photography skills and plan your approach.

You can shoot forest photography any time of the year so don’t just limit yourself to the colourful hues of autumn. Spring, summer and winter all have their own special appeal too.

More than the season, it is the light that is most significant in making your images stand out. And it is the knowledge of how to use light to best effect that will ultimately lead to better forest photography.

There are many different qualities and angles of light each with their own appeal. Strong direct light is good in open areas of woodland or for lighting solitary trees producing high contrast vibrant images.

Early morning or late afternoon is best for forest photography, as the low angled light will better illuminate the trunks and produce long dramatic shadows.

In very dense woodland strong sunlight can lead to a lot of dark shadows so is best avoided – instead use a lower contrast form of lighting.

Backlighting works really well when shooting forest photography, adding plenty of drama to the scene, and is especially effective in misty weather.

In the absence of mist, shoot early or late in the day, and if the sun is causing problems with flare or burnt out highlights, ‘hide’ it behind a tree trunk.

While overcast light may look less dramatic, it is a blessing for forest photography in dense woodland, as the light is more evenly spread with lower contrast, leading to richer colours and increased detail.

And don’t be deterred by the rain – it makes everything look fresh and vibrant and really saturates the colours of foliage, bark and woodland plants.

Keep your forest photography simple

When it comes to what to shoot, think how you can simplify the image as much as possible. What was it that caught your eye in the first place? Hone in on this and exclude everything that doesn’t add to the picture.

A telephoto lens is great for forest photography, as it compresses the perspective and enables you to isolate small sections of trees for a more compact photo composition.

Look for an interesting feature such as an angled trunk in a stand of upright trees or a splash of bright foliage among grey trunks to use as a focal point.

For creative forest photography of the woodland canopy fit a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the converging lines of the trunks. Bright overhead sunlight is great for backlighting leaves and provides a striking blue background on a clear day.

You can also employ your wide-angle lens for shooting whole woodland scenes that include flowers, ferns or mosses as foreground interest.

PAGE 1: Essential forest photography tips
PAGE 2: Key first steps to improving your forest photography
PAGE 3: Creative forest photography – create a blurred image
PAGE 4: Final tips for taking the perfect forest photograph


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