Forests are wonderful places to photograph and can often give you stand out shots that will not only look great in your portfolio but also hanging on your wall. There are so many opportunities for photography in forests and the great thing is that you can go back again and again as the changing seasons can completely transform the scene. However, capturing photographs of forests can be a challenge, so here are 7 tips to help you capture better forest photos.
When photographing a scene in a forest, it is tempting to try and re-create what you see in front of you in the viewfinder. Whilst modern digital cameras have advanced over the years, they are no match for the human eye so trying to re-create what you see in front of you in the viewfinder can often leave you disappointed.
The way you frame your photograph in the forest can make a huge difference to the final result so it pays to spend time thinking about it carefully. Sometimes a forest photo will work really well when it fills the entire frame, or when there is symmetry in the photo like a perfect row of trees. Other times you might need a point of interest like a person, a fallen tree or even wildlife.
The key to good composition is taking your time to evaluate the scene, patience and your own creativity.
Look For Water
Often forests and water go hand in hand and for photographers this means an opportunity for fantastic shots. Whether it’s a gentle stream, a thundering waterfall or a tranquil lake, water can provide the wow factor in forest photographs but these different bodies of water all provide different creative opportunities.
For example, a still lake can provide a beautiful mirror like reflection of the forest and even the sky whereas a waterfall can add a dynamic element to your photos. Whatever the water source is, it will be worth while exploring the photographs that you could capture in and around it.
Choose The Right Season
The great thing about photographing forests is that you will usually be hard pushed to capture exactly the same photo twice. The changing environment, weather and light will be different on a daily basis but the greatest factor is the changing seasons. A photograph of a forest scene in autumn with golden yellows and orange leaves will look completely different to a cold snowy or icy composition. Whatever the right season is will depend on the scene and also the photo you are trying to capture, so think about it carefully and plan your shoot accordingly.
Use Exposure Bracketing
Often photographing forests can present a really difficult technical photographic challenge. You are often having to deal with conditions where you have bright highlights in the sky part of the photo but at the same time dark shadows in the foreground in and amongst the trees. The best way to tackle this is by using a technique called “exposure bracketing”.
This basically means taking multiple shots from the same scene but each shot being slightly different in the exposure level. This usually involves one photo being under-exposed to compensate for the highlights in the scene (you want to make the bright areas darker) and one over-exposed (because you want the dark areas brighter).
Once you have these shots there are a couple of ways you can proceed. Sometimes you can use one of the shots you have taken (either the one that is slightly under-exposed or the slightly over-exposed one) and simply edit in post processing to get it to the right balance. At other times, you might have to merge the photos together which is known as HDR photography. But the key to it is ensuring you have the different exposure levels to experiment with in post production.
The Right Aperture
Generally, with any sort of landscape photography, you would want to keep as much of the photo sharp. To achieve this, you need to set your camera to have a small aperture (high f-number) but be careful not to go too high as very small apertures can have a negative impact on the sharpness of your photos known as “lens diffraction”. Usually anywhere from f/8 to f/16 and you’ll be safe but it would still be worthwhile testing your camera before going into the field.
Step Back Or Get High Up
Remember the saying “Can’t see the wood for the trees”? Well, for forest photography it makes sense sometimes to step back from the scene and be on the edge of the forest rather than in the middle of it. Finding a viewpoint whether that is high up on a hill or from a location further back looking at the forest can give you amazing photographs of the vastness of the forest.
It can also allow you to factor in elements such as the sky and clouds into the composition for stunning landscape shots. Obviously, getting to these viewpoints requires planning and effort but the rewarding shots will be worth the effort.
Forests remain a favourite location for landscape photographers that they keep coming back to again and again. Most people will find that they don’t live too far away from some sort of forest near them which provides a great opportunity to hone your skills and capture great photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. Dreamstime.