Copse and forests are deceptively difficult subjects to photograph. Information technology seems that something is oftentimes lost in the process – maybe their scale, maybe their tranquility. Photos of a forest scene tin easily turn into nonsensical jumbles fifty-fifty if the subject looks wonderful in person. How practice you avoid that?
My promise is that this commodity will help. Today, I’m going to cover my favorite techniques for photographing forests – gear selection, composition, post-processing, and so on. Forests are some of the subjects I photograph the most, and fifty-fifty though at that place is no “magic bullet” when yous’re photographing them, a little idea and effort can go a long way.
1. Camera Gear
A common lens to use for mural photography is an ultra-wide, something similar a 14-24mm zoom. These must be used with farthermost care in a woods environment.
The consequence is that ultra-wide lenses, especially 20mm and wider (full-frame equivalent), inevitably stretch the corners of your paradigm. This stretching effect may be invisible when there’southward nothing but blue sky in the corners, but it can make tree branches look strange and exaggerated.
That’s also true when you lot point the camera upward or downwards even slightly. The trees will offset to look like they’re falling, either away from you (if you bespeak up) or toward you lot (if you point downwardly). This isn’t necessarily going to ruin your photograph, simply it may non be the effect yous’re subsequently. Not to mention that the “nonsensical jumbles” issue of photographing a busy forest will probable only go worse when you utilise an ultra-wide that includes massive amounts of the scene in forepart of you.
I observe that a normal or slightly wide lens is my go-to choice for photographing forests. A 35mm or 50mm is a groovy identify to start (once again, full-frame equivalent). And if yous’re later on more of a portrait-blazon photograph that focuses on some of the smaller details in the scene, a longer lens similar an 85mm or 105mm can lead to excellent photos.
I’ve even taken many of my favorite forest photos at 200mm or longer, while standing at a distance, in order to flatten the discipline and reduce it down to its innate patterns. I’ve said it earlier, but it bears repeating: Telephoto lenses requite you a lot more than control over what shows up in your photo compared to broad-angles.
Of course, you
accept good photos in a forest with something wider – the “pointing directly up with a 14mm lens” shot is a classic that oft turns out surprisingly well – merely the middling focal lengths are much more comfortable in these environments. Reserve the ultra-wides for cases when you lot accept a specific shot in mind, not as walk-effectually lenses for photographing trees.
Equally for your other equipment, forests tin can be darker than most landscapes, especially on a cloudy or rainy solar day (which are oftentimes adept conditions for this blazon of photography). My strong recommendation is to utilise a tripod. If that’s not an option, you’ll want a camera with good high ISO functioning, plus prototype stabilization on the photographic camera and/or lens.
I detect that a polarizing filter can be a large help in forest photography because of how well information technology cuts down glare on the leaves. Many of the tips in this article revolve around simplification of complex scenes, and using a polarizer is no exception. Rather than distracting speckles of calorie-free beyond the photo, yous’ll capture more of the gentle tones of the leaves.
I rarely use any other filters or special accessories for photographing trees and forests. A tripod and a polarizer should practice information technology. However, if it’south raining or foggy – again, good conditions for these subjects – make sure to bring along a microfiber towel to go on the front of your lens clean, and possibly a rain cover or umbrella depending on how bad the weather gets.
two. Photographic camera Settings
In forest photography, the trickiest part about your camera settings happens when information technology’s windy and you don’t want the tree leaves to get blurry. In cases similar that, fifty-fifty if y’all’re using a tripod, you lot may need to bump upward your ISO in social club to keep your shutter speed fast enough. Y’all’ll also desire to take a series of images in a row to maximize your chances of getting something precipitous.
The just other challenge is making certain you’ve selected an aperture that gives you a sharp image and your desired depth of field. If you want a shallow depth of field for some of those detail shots, it’s easy enough to use a wider discontinuity value like f/two.viii or f/iv. Below, I went all the way to f/1.2 to become a truly isolated subject:
On the other hand, if y’all want your depth of field to cover the entire scene, keep in listen your focal length. If you lot’re using a 35mm or especially a 50mm lens, depth of field volition be a lot thinner than with a 14-24mm lens. You may need to stop down to f/11 or f/16 (even though information technology adds some diffraction) merely to get everything sharp from front to back. Or, y’all may deliberately select a “medium” aperture like f/v.six or f/viii to requite a bit of bailiwick separation without making the background turn completely out of focus.
It may sound like a lot to juggle, but in normal situations, the procedure I recommend is very uncomplicated. In aperture priority mode, just set base ISO and an aperture that gives you lot the desired depth of field. Allow your shutter speed to float. If you lot’re noticing too much motion mistiness in the leaves, consider bumping up the ISO until the shutter speed looks more than reasonable, or wait for a lull in the air current.
The i remaining difficulty is that a lot of wood scenes, specially in sunlight, have extremely high contrast. It helps in such cases to expose to the right and therefore make certain you’re non allowing any important highlight details to accident out. I shoot more forest scenes -i.0 exposure bounty compared to about whatsoever other field of study, because the camera doesn’t always consider the critical highlight details in its metering.
You may be wondering if HDR photography tin save the day here, but I’d exist
cautious nearly using traditional HDR methods in a forest. If there’s any air current, the tree leaves won’t be in the same position from photograph to photo, and fifty-fifty the best HDR blending software volition struggle to slice them together without artifacts. If you must increase your dynamic range across what the camera is capable of, I strongly recommend using the paradigm averaging or “AHDR” method instead of traditional HDR.
3. Composition and Shooting Conditions
Much of the time, your challenge when composing forest photos is going to be maintaining simplicity. More than always, with all the distractions in a forest, you demand to dribble your subject area downwards to its almost important elements. Otherwise, the photo will simply exist too complicated.
I already mentioned a few ways to simplify your subject: using a polarizer, setting a medium aperture to get slight background blur, and using a normal lens instead of an ultra-wide. All of those are viable techniques, but the virtually of import tools at your disposal are composition and your shooting conditions.
The beginning thing I’d think well-nigh is the light. What direction is it coming from? How low is the sun on the horizon? And is the sunday blocked past a cloud or shining in full force?
You lot’ll become the simplest photos in a woods by facing your limerick toward the lord’s day. Backlighting reduces the texture on tree trunks and leaves. It can requite y’all powerful silhouetted shapes where once was an untamable foreground. Backlighting also makes chaotic backgrounds wait much brighter and hazier.
Looking back at my forest photos, more than one-half of them are backlit. It’s always on my mind in these difficult landscapes: What direction is the brightest? Are there any good compositions facing that way? I find these questions of import no matter the conditions, fifty-fifty on an overcast mean solar day or before sunrise/subsequently sunset.
And of course, you should also consider the quality of the light and other shooting conditions. If the sun is behind a deject, wild highlight messes volition vanish. If it’due south raining or foggy, chaotic backgrounds volition do the same. It was raining when I took the following photo, which gives the background more of a muted quality and allows the nearest aspens to await brighter by comparing.
Sunrise and sunset aren’t as popular in forest photography equally in other genres. This isn’t considering they’re necessarily bad, only because their qualities of dramatic and colorful low-cal don’t translate as well when you’re at adventure of overcomplicated photos. That said, I do discover that forenoon and afternoon are good times for woods photography considering the slightly lower and more than directional sunlight can give you more to work with (i.eastward., a sunbeam going through the copse or powerful backlit silhouettes).
I already mentioned earlier that I like standing back and using a telephoto lens when photographing forests, since it can simplify the discipline downwards to its patterns. It’s worth mentioning again. One struggle in forest photography is just finding a practiced discipline in the first place, unless you’re lucky plenty to find a tree so interesting information technology stands out from its peers. In cases like that, “pattern every bit subject” photos can exist very powerful and are some of my favorite things to search for.
In any case, no thing what type of photo yous’re searching for, moving around your camera position is more important in forest photography than almost whatever other type of landscape. Shifting but a few paces in whatsoever management can dramatically change the relative sizes, positions, and importance of the trees in your photos. Don’t be afraid to motion around your tripod!
After you’ve taken your forest photos, it’due south time to post-process them. This is over again a time to call back about simplification. Consider the original post-processing tools in photography – dodging and called-for – and how you can use them to brand your message more effective. Distracting branches in the corners? Burn them (not literally). An interesting sunbeam that guides the eye to your subject? Dodge it.
Even though it might go against the original definitions, I’ve e’er taken dodging and called-for to include other edits than simple brightening and darkening. For example, when I burn down (darken) sure areas of the photograph to de-emphasize them, I will oft lower the contrast or clarity as well. Likewise, to describe attention to a discipline, y’all could add texture, saturation, or dehaze rather than merely relying on the brightness slider.
In any case, the thought is to go on doing what you started in the field by simplifying your subject area. When you lot de-emphasize plenty distractions in a photo, it’south amazing how much more effective information technology tin get. Equally always, with local edits, it’s very easy to overdo things and end upwardly with weird halos or artifacts, and then take it slow.
I’ve shown the following two photos many times earlier, including how my compositional decisions led to a much simpler photo the 2d fourth dimension. And while that was an important factor, post-processing was just as disquisitional. In the second photo, I strategically burned the distractions and dodged my subject area – along with cropping and changing my aspect ratio – to make the photo more effective.
Every bit the images above might as well suggest, an additional edit I often consider when postal service-processing forest photos is a blackness and white conversion. I turn many of my forest photos to blackness and white (or shoot them with black and white flick in the get-go place) considering it leads to a more effective emotional message.
Blackness and white is its own form of simplification, since color patterns tend to draw lots of attention. If that attending is in disharmonize with a dissimilar, more of import part of the photo, removing the color can create the simplification yous demand.
Other than that, processing wood photos is no different than whatsoever other type of editing. Just continue to be aware of overdoing things, because it stands out more when your subject already has a lot going on.
Fifty-fifty though forests can exist challenging subjects for mural photography, they are some of the most rewarding. A good flick of copse can transport us to a sanctuary of clean air and the sounds of nature.
Woods photography is likewise smashing because information technology’due south possible almost anywhere in the globe (pretty much unless you’re stationed in Antarctica). Combined with how beautiful forest photos can exist, there’s a good reason why it’southward such a popular sub-genre of landscape photography.
I hope this commodity helped respond some of your questions about getting better photos of trees and forests! Feel free to ask in the comments beneath if you take any questions or tips of your ain. Forests are some of my all-time favorite subjects, and fifty-fifty if I don’t return with a proficient photo, simply walking in a grove of trees is always refreshing in itself.