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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

See Through The Chaos

OP blogger Rafael Rojas shows how to dig through the visual clutter to make dramatic photos in the forest

Labels: Locations
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Rojas used a telephoto zoom to compress these trees into a pattern of autumnal colors. The combination of colors and flattened perspective and framing without the horizon all help simplify the image.
Some other less orthodox compositional ideas could be to make use of movement in your photographs. Long exposures on a windy day can produce surprising results as the trunks and branches appear sharp surrounded by blurred colorful patches of moving leaves. In the same way, panning the camera or using the zoom while exposing for a half to 1 second can create surprising pictorial effects in our photographs after a few attempts. As always, use the techniques so they add to the message and not just for the sake of their novelty or surprising results alone.

Seasons, Light & Weather
One of the particularities of forests is the diversity of moods and ambiances they provide as they're transformed completely with the change of the seasons and weather. However, it's often during autumn that most photographers feel compelled to visit the forest, and for good reason. During the peak of the autumn hues, it's always a good idea to photograph areas where there's a strong contrast of colors, for instance, between evergreens and deciduous trees or between the colorful leaves and a complementary blue sky. The colors are particularly strong when the light is soft and the leaves are wet, especially when using a polarizing filter to kill the reflections of their waxy surfaces, so don't be repelled by cloudy and rainy skies. Go and photograph in the early morning, too, when you're more likely to experience mist and the absence of wind. Mist fills the forest with mystery and mood, brings lots of depth to compositions and simplifies the complexity. But don't limit yourself to autumn, as every season has something special to offer.

In winter, particularly right after a snowfall, the forest becomes a winter wonderland full of graphical and tonal simplicity. This is the moment to play with the trunks and their shadows on the virgin snow, focus on the structure of snow-laden branches or look for subjects like frosted fallen leaves or frozen puddles. You can even try to photograph as the flurries fall, using your flash to lighten them up and make them appear as graphical dots of different sizes filling the photograph, or look for isolated trees where the wind has plastered only one side of their trunks, with snow creating interesting vertical bands of white.
When you enter the forest, leave all preconceptions, rush and worry outside, and take your time to tune in with the landscape.
In spring, a raw fresh green covers it all, flowers carpet the forest floor and mists linger in the early morning. In this season, there's a particular time that's quite interesting for photographers: when the new leaves start to bud, but are small enough to still allow us to see the structure of the branches. These fresh leaves can glow with wonderful colors when backlit, so spring can be a good time to try photographing the trees against a rising or setting sun or even under a blank cloudy sky when the soft light of the sky illuminates the leaves from behind.

Maybe summer is the season when most photographers stay at home, but even then, when the colors aren't so enticing and the canopy is dense, it's still possible to create wonderful photographs. Think, for instance, of photographing close to the edge of the forest when the sun rises or sets, sidelighting the trunks and the undergrowth with a golden glow that can turn the forest into a dream of long shadows, or photograph against the sun in the morning mist as the rays diffract through the canopy.

Forests are magical environments and a wonderful playground for the outdoor photographer. Whenever you go, many very personal photographs will be waiting for you under any kind of light, season and weather.

You can see more of Rafael Rojas' work and download his ebooks at rafaelrojasphoto.com. A regular contributor to the OP blog, you can find his articles at outdoorphotographer.com/blog.


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