- June 15, 2018
- 13 min to read
There’s No Need for More: 5 Tips on Taking Photos of Forests and Trees
Unlike most others, trees are willing subjects for photographers. Just because they are a captive audience, however, doesn’t mean snapping trees and forests is simple. To be successful, you should follow these unofficial rules.
Anyone who has ever taken photographs of a forest will tell you that it takes lots of research to get it right. This research means understanding the seasons and knowing when the trees are in bloom, being alert and flexible about the weather conditions, and learning about the cultural significance of the location and its woody inhabitants. You should also figure out the best time of day to take these pictures.
You should also think about snapping trees like you would take portraits. As photographer Len Jenshel and his partner Diane Cook explained to National Geographic, “You want to know as much as you can about your subject.”
As National Geographic notes:
“For the photograph of Isaac Newton’s apple tree, they (Jenshel and Cook) emailed back and forth with experts to determine when the apples would be at their reddest before falling off. They also use tools like Google Earth to find out what to expect from the terrain and Photographer’s Ephemeris to learn at what times of day a tree might get sunlight. All before taking out the camera.”
2. Remember the Time
You should also be aware of the time it takes to visit a new location. Surprisingly, many newbies forgot to include the time to research, plus time driving or hiking. In doing so, you risk passing the ideal time on the clock and will become stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to show for it.
With that said, having patience is vital.
As Drew Hopper, writing for PetaPixel beautifully contends:
"Perhaps you’ve found an interesting tree but the light is falling on the opposite side to where you had hoped to shoot – you can either recompose your shot or revisit when the lighting has changed angles. Often I’ll do both to get a different feeling of the same subject. Be patient, the forest has all the time in the world. That gigantic tree you want to photograph didn’t sprout up overnight. That’s the best part of photographing the natural world: Mother Nature is extremely patient. Sometimes you’ll be rewarded with something special, other times you may walk away empty-handed with zero pictures. Find time to reflect and take in your surrounds.”
3. Remember Your Equipment
Having the appropriate equipment is also essential. This means considering wide-angle zoom or telephoto lenses. You should even think about being a tripod. Using a polarizing filter is also good since they eliminate unwanted distractions.
Because trekking into the woods could prove time-consuming, you might also want to consider being a friend to help you carry all of this equipment. You don’t want to waste your time going back and forth between the location and your car, for example, so bring someone with you.
You should also bring weather gear for your equipment and yourself. No protecting your stuff from the elements could prove detrimental. Again, depending on how long the journey takes to get to your location, you don’t want to be stuck with no protection.
As Tim Gilbreath explains on the website, Digital Photography School:
“As always with shooting landscapes, a tripod is a must. Both wide-angle and narrower primes lenses, such as a 50mm can come in handy. I personally use a 24mm prime lens to capture wider forest shots, to get many trees in the frame at once, but then switch to my 50mm to get closeups of things like leaves, insects, or flowers.”
4. Consider Adding Other Subjects, Have Fun
If the tree or forest you’d like to snap is next to a river or lake, consider making it a part of your shoot. Adding water to your images adds beautiful imagery.
The Golden Hour is often said to be the best time to take a photograph. Usually, this is the case. However, when it comes to taking photos of forests and trees, it’s okay to think outside of the box and snap your images at other times.
“As outdoor or natural light photographers, we know that the best times to shoot are early mornings or late evenings, and to do our napping at noon. But forest environments are one of those places that can still work well during bright, more direct sunlight.”
As Cook concludes, "Every single picture we take is about light interpreting and bringing out the best in the tree,” no matter what the position of the sun.
Dag Ole Nordhaug writing at Capture Landscapes offers this advice when it comes to post-processing:
“Be very careful with the colors, and adjust hue, saturation and luminosity separately with care. Give the greens and yellows special attention and try out different balances. I always try to capture the scene right in a single exposure, but techniques such as panorama stitching, perspective-blend, focus stacking or even focal-length stacking can be used although the forest-scene with all its lines and details may make a good blend difficult.”
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