How I began delving into Woodland Photography
Updated: Feb 4
It was the last week of May 2021, peak spring in Saarland and characteristic of spring, the trees were clothed in a vibrant green dress. Having watched countless videos by landscape photographers like Nigel Danson, Mads Peter Iversen and perusing over the portfolios of a number of inspiring landscape photographers, I was left mesmerised by the beauty of the wild garlic flowers that they had so beautifully captured over the years. The brilliant white flowers forming a soft carpet over a lush green forest just pulled me towards their images and I was hooked.
I had never seen or heard about Wild Garlic before and this was a revelation for me when I found out that the ubiquitous edible bulb found in most kitchens also has a wilder cousin which flowers every spring in moist woodlands. After reading a bit more about it, I discovered that the plant is an ancient woodland indicator. Moist and ancient woodlands - three buzz words for Germany, so my inquisitive mind started (google -)searching for such a woodland in and around my area. And ain't I lucky, I found one about 20 kms away from where I stay. After asking the local photographers, I reached the location only to be left with a slack jaw. It was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined and more. So as always, I started taking mediocre photos in every possible direction, only to realize that the light is not sufficient enough to take hand held pictures. As a result, I decided to use that day to scout the area and find compositions using the fallen tree trunks as leading lines.
I returned to the location the immediate next day, this time with my tripod and took a multitude of photos - mostly mediocre compositions, except probably one which I ended up loving.
This image titled "Fallen Trunks" kickstarted my interest into woodland photography. The chaos of forests, the lack of light shining through the canopy, the multitude of details, representing the 3D depth of a scene onto a 2D image and the lack of obvious and easy to find compositions make this genre one of the most challenging in photography. Also, controlling, and not oversaturating the colours of the forest - be it green and yellow during spring and summer or bright orange and red during autumn - is something that I needed to practice quite a lot.
All these challenges, at the onset, did make me a bit apprehensive into delving into this genre with unadulterated interest, but as time passed and I started shooting more forest scenes, I could see myself enjoying the process more and more. I began exploring my local woodlands regularly and revisiting them as frequently as possible. Most days, I came back with almost close to zero good images, but on days I manage to find something that I like, it just makes the struggle much more fulfilling.
Since May of last year, I think I have devoted the most amount of time to Woodland Photography. Don't get me wrong, I still love to take photos of the vast landscapes and the grand vistas, but you just cannot travel all the time to these bucket-list locations. Woodland Photography helped me appreciate the often overlooked subjects in landscapes. Walking through a forest trail, exploring the small side routes, listening to the birds chirping, just slowing down and taking in the beauty of the forests always relaxes me and makes my otherwise hyperactive mind calm down.
Also, this haphazardly written blogpost will be incomplete without mentioning the change of seasons and its effect on woodlands. During the turn of the seasons, especially from summer to autumn, the gradual change of colours brings forth a new facet to the forests. Take these two photos shot at one of my favourite locations for instance. Both of them are almost the same composition captured two weeks apart. The season and the atmosphere create a completely different vibe even though the subjects of both the images are the same.
Truth be told, autumn has definitely been my most productive season in exploring this genre and I cannot stress enough how much I love this season (maybe that is a topic for another blog post). I should just rather let the pictures do the talking.
Long story short, this genre of photography has helped me a lot in relaxing at locations that are quite overwhelming at the onset, it helped me find those not-so-obvious compositions and definitely helped me calm down to the point that I often consider it as a very artistic form of therapy. I surely have a long way to go before I excel at this genre, but every day I am out exploring the woods, I am learning a new lesson and uncovering a new tip. Photography is definitely not a sprint to reach the perfect photo, rather it is a long marathon where every turn provides with new opportunities and this genre of photography helped me understand this valuable lesson. So with this viewpoint into why and how I started delving into this genre, I leave you with two of my most recent woodland shots.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
- "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
by Robert Frost