Updated: Sep 30
Every year from September onwards, I get very excited about the autumnal season. Cooler temperatures foggy and misty mornings, not to mention those rich bright colours as the leaves show the best colours off. Although I am definitely not an expert when it comes to woodland, photography, or photographing over the autumnal season. However, I thought it may be interesting to put together a short piece, which perhaps could help someone just starting off in the Photography journey or even refresh a few ideas/skills. To that end, let's jump in and have a look at some of my helpful tips to hopefully get the best out of your Photography this autumn just before the best of the colours start kicking off.
Like almost everything knowledge is power. Having more understanding about your subject will give you much more help in the long run. Landscape and woodland photography is just the same, we all make the same mistakes and to start off with that is rushing into a situation and not doing some ground work beforehand.
What I mean by this is researching your subject, the locations and timings before finally going out on the right day with the right weather. Of course I am a big believer of just getting your boots on and going for a walk however a small amount of checking the weather is always advised just to avoid missing those best conditions such as fog mist and that fine rain. After all these are the best conditions the fog and mist and rain really softens trees and boosts the colours as well as the gentle clarity what is the fog and mist always looks better with trees. However on a nice day when the Sun is shining and there's no wind why not use these occasions to scout out your locations. This is what I do on a regular basis just go for a walk after perhaps doing a bit of Google searching for a location take the dog for a walk and just use the time to location scout. Then when you do have the right conditions such as the fog and mist and if you found a location fairly local that you can return to on a regular basis that is even better. Therefore when you have the right conditions and you've done your research you'll feel a lot more confident and not waste as much time it will be all about photographing the stunning scene in front of you.
Research via Google Maps.
Go for a walk on a separate occasion with more time.
Return to the location more than once just to make sure you are happy.
Use social media groups for information.
Seek advice or inspiration from other photographers.
Knowing your camera
Knowing how to use your camera is a key part of all photography however I would say it is especially important with landscape photography for a number of reasons. We are often up early in the morning travelling to a location to photograph before sunrise or just a sunset. To that end it is often dark for our adventures meaning that knowing how to use our camera is key. In time it is important to try and get the basics in your camera so you can use it in the dark or in wet and cold conditions.
If you can handle these horrible wet and cold conditions with numb fingers the basics of your camera will be easy to use. This really does come with just practice the more you're out practising with your camera the easy it becomes but all this comes with time. This can be especially difficult for people trying to learn or get that shot early but slowing down is going to help in the long run get the basics and how to really use your camera. Therefore again it is good to go out during the day set up the tripod and practice going through the menu. Working out the Shortcuts setting up the timer and how to change all the needed picture styles so that when you do arrive in the dark and your fingers are freezing it becomes second nature.
This then leads you into the fundamentals of landscape photography which I will not fully go through now but understanding the exposure triangle is going to help you in the long run so I highly recommend doing a simple YouTube search trying to find a decent video that will help you get these basics in the bag.
Not a video I've used at the beginning of my photography journey however when I was creating this blog I did a bit of research myself and one such video can be found in the link below.
Video by Mark Wallace
As I have mentioned already I cannot pretend to be an expert on woodland photography or photographing trees. Over the years I have just found ways that work for me and allow me to achieve images that I am fairly happy with. Of course we always want more and I want to improve this field of work but one way that has always worked for me is looking for separation in the trees. A woodland environment can be one of the most challenging to photograph. To start off with if you are looking for compositions in a messy environment. Nature does not produce perfect straight lines and tidy environments. Instead you have lines going in all different directions. Shapes and clutter often fill the sea in making it just difficult to even find a composition to photograph let alone composing the image correctly. However for me first things first looking for separation has always worked quite well for me. Looking for the gaps between the trees and making that a nice straight line or an area with character has always worked very well for my photography. As silly as it may sound you are also looking for the character in the tree but not necessarily looking for a composition which is a tree. If you can put those elements of separation and character together which are not necessarily shapes from the tree I always find it works perfectly. Basically don't necessarily look for a tree shape look for the other shapes that can be in the composition. Lines and shapes in all different directions these are the objects I try and look for first then when I've composed the image with the straight lines or separation then I'm happy with the outcome.
For example yes this is not necessarily a bad image but the white arrows point out obvious areas of clutter where the separation is just not great. The first white arrow on the left you can see the two Silverbirch trees on top of each other and when we are viewing photos of pieces of art will you see what is wrong with it before we see what is right with it, so for me I can just see a bit of clutter and mess. Same with the white arrow in the middle in the distance I can just point out a few elements of the lines on top of each other just making it a little bit more messy.
So to improve this all we need to do is simply move our composition whether you are using a tripod or photographing your image handheld just walk round the composition slightly until you have less clutter and more separation. This could mean going up or down in your composition or just walking around until you're more happy with the separation.
Of course this is not perfect still you can still see elements of trees on top of each other slightly however just by moving ever so slightly and trying to find a better composition I was able to get more separation in the image. Just by moving around a little bit slowing down and taking my time and just looking for those gaps in between the lines for me worked much better.
Eventually moving around even more and composing a number of possibilities I came across almost the perfect image. Yes there are trees touching in the distance and as I mentioned earlier on it's almost impossible for it to be perfect in nature however this is a great example of the separation. To start off with I had the two trees leaning into each other on the very edge of the image both on the left on the right. This was a perfect framing tool for the photograph. Then it was just about getting myself level composing with a good amount of separation add it all in with the foggy conditions and I had a perfect photograph which displays my separation. I think if you look back to the original photograph at the start you can clearly see the messy cluttered environment compared to this more neat and tidy photograph.
These images, whilst talking about the separation were taken in the area of bole Hill quarry. This area, and that of Padley Gorge are also fantastic for those wanting to get some macro style images of the fungus and toad stalls. Pretty much from September onwards, you can enjoy most of this area due to the damp conditions being perfect for that style of photograph. Plus whilst you're there, why not take advantage of those incredible, ancient, woodlands and stunning waterfalls.
Shapes and compositions
It can be the greatest photo you've ever taken it can be incredible light or it could be the most rare event of all time. But if you don't have a decent composition or sometimes foreground interest then it's just going to look a little bit amateur. Looking for those characteristic trees or images with good foreground interest are always going to stand out well. A woodland environment as I've mentioned can be messy and difficult but at the same time you can always get a decent composition, any of the camera, with the impressive shapes or foreground interest and something that will lead you into the image.
Bole Hill quarry in the Peak District. The millstones in the foreground on the right naturally lead you into the image. Then everything else works naturally as a decent composition because of the foggy autumnal morning. The interesting shapes from the branches above create the decent image and altogether works well.
Here you can see yet another example of that foreground interest. The large dark boulder on the right naturally leading you in creating a perfect foreground interest. This is what your eyes see first in the image and then we naturally scan the rest of the image and the distance picking out individual objects in this example it is the trees. This time you can also see the camera settings for this photograph.
Matlock Derbyshire on a silent foggy morning at the very start of the autumnal season. Decent foreground interest created practically in the middle by the big green boulder. Then I found my eyes leading to the Pine tree at the beginning on the left before naturally scanning down towards the tree tunnel in the distance.
Take your photography to the next level.
One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to go to a workshop and learn from someone who knows or has been doing it for a while. Even though I do very small volunteer workshops, sometimes at Dronfield Hall Barn, and occasionally a beginners guide to landscape, photography one-on-one. I'm not a business or expert.
However, there are some awesome photographers out there who can teach you better than I can. I highly recommend the work of Matthew Oliver. A very capable and talented landscape and woodland photographer in the Sheffield area of the peak district.
To anyone trying to improve their photography, or starting from scratch to get the most out of their camera. Take a look at the photo below of Matt and Ralph the dog for more info.
So thank you all again for checking this out and I really hope it helps you with your photography. If there is any other questions don't hesitate to contact me directly via social media or my website.
Certainly no expert but I constantly produce the images I do with my own time and knowledge therefore I understand if someone is at the beginning of their photography journey this could be of some help. I've been out on a regular basis now with my camera in the Peak District National Park and the Derbyshire Woodlands for over a decade. In this time to work out what works and what doesn't work and get the knowledge of the ground and the area.
Therefore yes no expert but I do have a Limited amount of knowledge which could definitely help
With there, being a mixture of new and old photographs, the two cameras I have used for these images over the years are both the canon 5D Mark three and more recently the Fuji film XT 3
Tripod and camera bag
I continue to be a Vanguard Photo Uk ambassador. Therefore, all tripods and camera bags are that of Vanguard, more specifically the VEO 3+ and camera bag majority of the time, the VEO Active camera bag
Kase Filters UK
Although with Mirrorless cameras, there's not always as much needed for filters. I do continue to use that of Kase filters to get the best out of the image. More recently, the kase revolution, magnetic filter system. Which is an incredible piece of kit, both four lightweight and quality.
From the minute it was released. I've been using Affinity Photo for all my photo editing. More recently, with the update of Affinity Photo 2 I then also purchased publisher and design just to then own the full package. All my editing is done, happily using Affinity Photo 2.
From the time I was injured back in 2007 we have been an apple family. Of course, this was the time of the release of the first iPhone. However, it took us about a year or 2 to start using the smart phones. Of course when I was injured, my memory and brain wasn't great, but Apple technology continues to be a huge source of equipment which helps the journey on a regular basis. Both with the iPhone and the Apple Mac more recently with the M2 chip 16 inch laptop. In short as a registered blind landscape photographer, these pieces of equipment such as the Apple iPhone and the Apple Mac. All of this would be much more difficult without the help of VoiceOver and talking technology.
Chris Nowell Photography