Just spent the weekend camping in some ancient (ie has well established native species) woodland on the Sussex / Surrey border. It is wonderful to spend time in real unmanaged places like that with natural wildlife (deer wander through the woods), birdsong and that wonderful dappled light.
Well it is wonderful to look at – and can be a total nightmare to photograph when there is bright sunlight (the one place where I would pay a lot for a camera with twice the dynamic range of todays SLRs).
That lovely dappled light creates extreme contrast that isn’t manageable using filters. Of course HDR is an option today – but I’m no expert and find that it isn’t without issues as you still have to compress the larger tonal range down at some point.
The other challenge I find is turning what I see in to some form of coherent photograph. Details do jump out at me but when I’m composing there are often other elements that are hard to exlude and fight the subject you are trying to isolate.
In the photograph above the fingers of the plan growing up the tree caught my eye, but the light behind was very bright. In colour the brighter yellows and greens fight for my attention and draw me away from the shapes – so getting rid of the colour helps, as does the ability to more strongly darken and vignette the image to pull the eye to the shapes.
With this old Hornbeam I switched the post processing approach setting the darker tree against a lighter background. Again I think the lack of colour helps the picture – bringing the focus on the shapes of the tree again.
What woodland does most importantly is make you work on your technique (exposure and depth of field) and composition, finding shapes and subjects in the confusion of nature.