The Highs and Lows of Woodland Photography

If you hang around this blog you’ll quickly realize I love the woods.  Forests of all stripes and ecologies fascinate and enchant me.  Mostly I look for the small scenes and tiny things that are often overlooked.  This year I want to also try to show the larger view of why I hang out in the woods so much.  The trees, the stone walls (at least here in New England), the boulders and rock formations, the light – all of it comes together to soothe and enliven.  Here are some recent shots that I hope get the point across.

This first one is kind of experimental.  I was out with the OM 35mm f2 lens and playing with depth of field and while it isn’t perfect, I like the freshness and the ‘good dream’ quality.

I don’t know if it works, but I’ll keep trying as the season progresses.  As always I have my eyes on the ground, too.  Better to keep from tripping over roots and rocks and for spying some of my latest obsession – sporophytes!!

Spoonlike sporophytes

These are wicked small – the tallest is barely 1 inch.  I was attracted by the red color and was delighted to see they look like wee spoons.  Never saw them before and the light was just so amazing I had to try for a shot.  I wish I could have gotten a bit more depth of field, but this shot is already at f16 which is the outer limit for the 90mm’s sweet spot, so it will have to do.  I am still torn about those white pine needles in the foreground; do they distract too much??  I left them in to show scale and the light changed so quickly that just a few minutes after I took this, all was in shade so I moved on without taking a shot with them removed.

The light is what attracts me to shoot these and when I spied this next little group I had to move fast.  At these small scales pockets of sunlight disappear in seconds.  Really keeps me on my toes…or should I say knees?  I’d have liked to frame this one a bit better, but literally ran out of time.  In about a minute, the earth turned and those snakey little sporophytes were in the same shade as the background.  Isn’t the color just fab though?

Snakey sporophytes

I hope that this kind of pressure situation improves my initial instincts for this type of photography.  Part of being a good photographer is developing a kind of muscle memory about certain conditions – you know, that grab shot that is so hit or miss that most of us miss.  Sometimes though, I catch a break, and the light remains long enough for me to finesse things.  This next shot, while of a flower that is everywhere (ubiquitous…don’t you love that word??), I worked it pretty hard, changing lenses, angles and finally the background to isolate just two blooms.  Quotidian, yes, but I like it anyway.  Bluets just seem so cheery to me.

Eternal Optimism

So back to one of my original thoughts in this post; showing the larger view.  Here’s a shot, again taken with the OM 35mm f2, of one of my favorite sections of trail in my local conservation area.  The white pines are packed in so tightly that only their upper branches have life.  Almost nothing can live in the highly acidic soil that is almost constantly shaded.  The inches deep mat of needles is soft and springy underfoot.  I always stop here and bounce slightly on my toes enjoying the feeling of hiding in plain sight.

Overlook tunnel

Again, I’m not sure it works, but because I walk there often, I feel its effect on me.  Encapsulating and secretive.  I just found a disused trail in this area, and since it’s high up on a granite ledge, I think that some leafy/canopy views might be possible as the trees leaf out.  Stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Woodland Photography

Add yours

  1. I loved all of the pictures. But the last one where the sunlight shines through the packed trees just enough to highlight the floor, I really like that one.

  2. I think you’ve showcased why we like to walk, or more often crawl, around in the woods. “Snakey Sporophytes” and “Eternal Optimism” are the best of the bunch in my humble opinion Kris. I can also completely understand the urgency you face when making these. When setting up a shot like this, in those little patches of forest light, I’m mumbling to myself, “please, please, please,” hoping that the light stays just one more second.

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