Not much activity to report of late, with the exception of one trip to Bernwood Forest for fungi shots. On the back of that, I’m writing this post to present some work from that day, as well as making some general comments about revisiting the same locations frequently.
On a recent video blog, the American landscape photographer Ben Horne made a similar point about revisiting iconic US wilderness locations, and this prompted me to write also – notwithstanding the fact that the woodlands of Oxfordshire are not quite in the same aesthetic or cultural league as the likes of Zion National Park! The link to his blog is in my links page.
Anyway, as a semi-serious, and semi-competent macro photographer, I have learned the importance of revisiting the same photography locations as often as possible. I often yearn for the opportunities to take week-long expeditions to more adventurous locations, and in the last couple of years have had some excellent experiences in Greece; but it’s also important to appreciate possibilities that are available to you much nearer to home (though obviously this is potentially rather easier for macro photography opportunities – depending on your subject to some degree – than it is for landscape photography).
This is the second year in a row that I’ve been visiting Bernwood Forest, for both butterflies and fungi, and I’ve now generated a specific route through the forest, taking my GPS with me, which allows me to trace which precise locations I’ve visited and where I’ve had most success with images. On the back of this I’ve accrued further photographic benefits to myself. These include:
- An enhanced sense of the vicissitudes of the natural environment: seasonal changes and notes about what I see where and when are the best times to visit;
- A greater self-consciousness about shooting styles and technique;
- Greater awareness of the importance of pre-visualizing shots, with the goal of attempting to produce images which will look good when printed large (I have an Epson 3880 and a box of A2 paper).
This last point means that you economize your effort and try to maximize your opportunities, by taking more time over your shots, and taking fewer but hopefully rather more consistent shots. It also means that I become more self-conscious about the patience required with photography that relies on the seasons and the differences each year will bring, understanding that it may take several years to find a perfect subject that works well in a context that conveys a sense of place and time.
Last year I may have experienced something like beginner’s luck, in that the seasonality of autumn seemed somewhat more prolonged within a time period that allowed me more freedom to visit; this year, autumn has come really rather late, during a period of peak business for me at work. Also, at least so far, I have not been quite as fortunate with my images and subjects as last year, but perhaps as we move into December I will have more time for some further visits.
Below are some images from a trip I made a few weeks back, focusing solely on fungi along my chosen route through the forest. I was aiming for full frame images with a strong autumnal flavour, with lots of colour and detail. I also took along with me a handheld water sprayer to add water droplets on my subjects to add moisture and create further effects – something I had one notable success with last year.
I will describe each image in detail below, noting what I think are the successes and weaknesses of these shots. As you will see, I’m not particularly satisfied with any of these so far! I will present, as the last image, one of my favourite shots of last year, as a comparison.
Stack of 16 frames at ISO 100 1″ f/8 and 1 blended at 4″ f/16 for water droplet on cap
water sprayer for droplet; cap about 15mm across.
Nice colours, though I feel that the composition could be stronger (fungus is too central), and the water on the cap doesn’t provide quite enough impact – though I love the reflection of the forest context and swirly effect.
Buttercap and Friend
Camera/lens as before
Stack of 8 frames at ISO 100 f/8 + 1 blended at ISO 1000 f/16 for water droplet
Technically good, though lighting could be better, and the very front of the image could be a little sharper (i.e. I needed to start the stack a mm or two further out – my fault for not fully checking live-view for focus accuracy at the start of the stack). Again, subject a little central. Droplet and fly are both cool, but vie for attention a little bit too much perhaps. Colours a little too uniform maybe?
Camera/lens as before
Stack of 7 frames at ISO 100 0.5” f/8
Compositionally very nice, with nice detail. I quite like this one!
Rosy Bonnet (?) wide-angle
Nikon D800E/Zeiss 21/Lee 105 cpl
ISO 100 1” f/11
water droplet applied as before, to add some gloss to the cap.
Again, I quite like this one. Here the camera is resting on a mat at ground level; even now I wish I could have got slightly lower and slightly closer, so compositionally not perfect, but colours and textures are nice.
Rosy Bonnet (from November 2013)
Stack of 6 frames,
5 @ ISO 100 2.5″ f/8
+ 1 @ ISO 100 5″ f/16 for water droplet (masked in from another exposure)
One of my best shots from last year: colours, technique, subject and composition all came together really nicely here to produce an image which looks great printed big. Very happy with this one!