16 October 2011

Stalking trees

We're going to the forest, says our photography tour leader, Jonathan. It's a bit bright for the water, so we'll try and get some nice dappled light - and let's just see what we can do with that.

OK, that sounds great. I love the greenery and lushness of a forest. So off we go, with trust and belief in our newfound skills as photographers. We are banned from saying things like "oh don't worry about that (insert photo problem as appropriate), we can just photoshop that out afterwards". According to Jonathan, Photoshop is a "thing" not a "verb". Okay - so we have to get it right in the camera, not trust to technology to fix up inherent laziness. Lesson learnt. Hopefully.

We arrive at the forest - a typical Landaise pine forest, with thick ferny undergrowth and a wide trail covered with leaf litter running through the middle. Immediately we are struck with the age-old problem of not being able to see the trees for the forest. Or photographically speaking, not being able to work out which of the hundreds of trees available should become the literal focus of our shots.
So a-stalking we went, tripods and cameras held high, wading through the thick undergrowth, hunting for the perfect light, the perfect angle, the most character-laden tree and the holy grail for photographers - something to spark up your shot and make it just that little bit magical.

Of course when you're searching for something you can't describe or measure objectively, you go round and round in ever-decreasing circles, with ever-increasing levels of frustration.
Just shoot something. Try something and then try it from a different angle. Deep into the ferns now, I fire off numerous shots. Lighting from behind, lighting from the side, shooting into the light (yes, it's OK to do that, even though we were taught not to a million years ago) - but still not finding that bit of magic.

Walking back to the van, I meet up with Jonathan who says "do me a favour and just shoot that stand of trees at the top of the pathway there - I think we could do a nice letter-box crop on this in our workshop time".

So obvious when the shot is pointed out! Here's how it turned out.

And magic began to take shape by playing with the light.

So with fresh eyes I turned to my earlier shots taken in the misty mornings by the lakes of Les Landes. And found one that looks very painterly when adjusted nicely.

I don't know whether I would have managed these shots on my own before. That's the great thing about being with others in a workshop situation. You learn to see the world a little differently, you see what is possible, rather than simply problems with the weather. Who would have thought fog, mist and dim light could deliver such magic!

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