top of page
  • Chris Nowell

Trees


sunrising though the trees
Morning Light

The scent of woodland carpet fills the air. On a glorious sunrise, the forest wildlife is surrounded by light shining through the trees. Forests, baths, and foraging in the woods. People have long enjoyed visiting their local Woodlands to soak up those healthy endorphins. Photographing woodlands or trees in general can be challenging. To this end, I have compiled a short blog post that will hopefully provide you with a little insight on how a few things can be improved to make it easier for you to photograph trees on your adventures.


Location


It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the area you plan to photograph, whether it's a local woodland or a distant location, by visiting multiple times before your actual shoot. This allows you to understand the area, find the best compositions, anticipate lighting conditions, identify obstacles like rivers or streams, and address any potential challenges. By thoroughly preparing in advance, you set yourself up for a successful photography session.


Exploring for possible images in a local woodland
Location scouting

When revisiting a location multiple times, the impact of seasonal changes cannot be overlooked. Each visit offers a unique perspective due to the variations brought by different seasons. The transition from spring to autumn showcases starkly contrasting landscapes, with trees transforming from lush greenery to bare branches, highlighting the significant influence of seasonal shifts on the overall scenery.


Light & Shade


It is impossible to overestimate the importance of light when photographing trees. A forest scene can be made or broken by the subtle shadows and light that are cast by the trees.




light before sunrise
Blue Hour Light

Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph Silver Birch trees in the Peak District Moreland. When I arrived, the light was somewhat flat, with a 30- to 40-minute wait before the sun rose. It was only a matter of time before it happened. The sky was clear but with a low windspeed I was optimistic that I would be able to capture something interesting. Zero movement in the flowering cotton grass behind the trees was Destin to provide me with something quite decent once we stepped out of the blue hour.



Morning Light
Light Just after Sunrise

The warm morning light soon cast those shapes across the landscape, adding more vibrancy and pop to the trees. A welcome rivalry was created by the arrival of the gentle shadows. On their own, the two images are very good. This is just a good explanation of the importance of light.



Evening light
Sunset


Fog Mist & Rain


It is true that some people find visiting woodlands during foggy or misty conditions rather intimidating, and even scary at times, however, this is when a forest can really come alive with those boosted conditions, such as clarity and increased separation. Whether it is fog or mist, fog or mist somehow manages to create even more separation between the trees on a calm, still morning. When this occurs, you should be out with your camera to take advantage of the situation.



Silverbirch trees on a misty morning
Silver birch

Another benefit of woodland photography during fog or mist is that the clutter is removed for you. As you cannot see too far into the distance, the images further away are tidied up by the smooth fog in the foreground.

Stay calm, take your time, and enjoy the Despite the fact that most cameras these days are weather-sealed, this cannot be assured 100%. It is also a good idea to photograph trees when it is raining or when it has just stopped. Again, the trees will be illuminated by the water, adding an even greater sense of excitement.





Old gnarly tree
Ancient woodland

Green leaves on a misty morning
Local spot


Shapes and characters


There is no doubt that sometimes when photographing trees or woodlands, you are not necessarily seeking to take photographs of trees. You should look for shapes or objects that stand out within the scene.


You may want to include characteristic trees or interesting branches so that you can zoom in and perhaps see something different



Scary looking old tree
Characteristic tree



Oak tree on the right hand side with leading leaves to the left
Ancient oak tree


As an example, this mature oak tree is something that most people would walk past without even noticing. A small group of oak trees stands alongside this tree on the right side of a large flower meadow. By stepping over to the left-hand side and zooming in to create levels of foreground on the tree and mid-ground on the branches, the image becomes alive with different layers all the time with a decent morning mist standing out and being a unique image that most people would not even notice.



Group of trees with the Sun rising to the left
Group of trees with the sun rising to the left


Leading lines


Despite the disorder and chaos of the forests, it is possible to find leading lines. There can be rows of wildflowers such as wild garlic, or the very classic bluebells in spring. Or such as this photograph you’re just looking along a wall line looking for that leading line.



A pathway leading down a woodland on a misty morning
Leading line of an old wall

Man-made lines in Woodland photography, like pathways, can enhance the composition by guiding the viewer's eye and adding depth to the image. For example, a pathway leading towards this stately home in Derbyshire not only leads the viewer into the photograph but also creates a sense of depth, especially when shadows are present. This combination of man-made lines and natural elements can result in a compelling and visually engaging photograph.




Shadows of trees
Lines of trees casting shadows


Separation


One simple way to capture the beauty of woodland photography scenes is through isolation. By separating individual trees from the surrounding clutter you can create visually stunning images. You can achieve this by finding a single tree that stands out from the others, perhaps on a hill or in a field.



Quiet misty woodland
Separation


It is, however, easier to select one individual tree. Therefore, how can you accomplish this when you are deep within the thick of the branches? For me, this is all about seeking separation. In order to create a more exciting image, it is always advisable to choose a composition with fewer messy elements and more gaps between the trees.



Diagram looking for gaps in trees
Looking out for separation


In this photograph, for example, there are a few elements that illustrate too many trees stacked on top of each other with no separation between them. By itself, the image is not a bad one due to the fog and atmosphere, but by stepping to the left a few feet I was able to improve a few aspects. By taking me away from the pathway or muddy traffic, for example. In addition, we are beginning to open up the scene a little bit more.



Separation is being created
Moving positions can create bigger gaps

Silver birch trees
Separation between the trees

Both of the last two images effectively demonstrate the point I am trying to convey. By adjusting your position slightly or altering the composition of your tripod, you can enhance the scene significantly, adding depth and interest. Achieving perfect composition is challenging, particularly in natural settings where imperfections are common. Persistence and thoughtful consideration before capturing the shot are key to ensuring the best possible composition.



Pinewood with the light beaming through
Separation Pinewood

The final image captures the focal point of a lone tree, exuding potential. Yet, to enhance the composition, slight adjustments in the tripod positioning are required. Optimal results are achieved when the tripod is set on level ground or positioned slightly above the tree, overlooking a gentle downhill slope. Shooting from an uphill angle may diminish the depth of the photograph and pose challenges in achieving a balanced horizon. This is of course, unless you are photographing a moonrise or something with the moon rising to the side or behind the tree in that case shooting uphill is just fine.



Lone tree in a heather moorland
lone tree


Tools


When creating a photograph, the initial idea or vision is crucial before any image can be captured. Alongside the human eye, two essential pieces of equipment that significantly enhance my photography are the camera tripod and filter system. The tripod is my primary tool as it enables me to compose images meticulously, achieve level shots, and step back to refine the photograph. Its stability is key in producing sharp, high-quality images, making it indispensable for 99.99% of my work. In truth, I prefer not to take handheld photographs due to the unmatched benefits a tripod provides in ensuring precision and clarity in my images.


As a Vanguard ambassador for a long time now I will always choose Vanguard tripods and camera bags.

It just works perfectly.



Tripod in the Peak District National Park
Vanguard photo UK tripod


When I am out in the Peak District or any other location for my landscape photography, I often encounter other photographers questioning my use of filters. While mirrorless cameras provide a good preview of the image, it's not always 100% accurate. There have been instances where the exposure didn't capture the true image or where adjustments were needed for clarity that couldn't be achieved solely in-camera. Using filters not only helps me achieve the desired image quality but also saves time by reducing the need for extensive post-processing. This efficiency allows me to spend more time in nature capturing moments rather than being tied to my computer screen.


Get it right in camera first with filters that is the way forward.

Kase filters uk



kase filters uk
Kase filter system


As this blog comes to an end, I would just like to confirm. Although I am not an expert when it comes to photographing trees, I feel that I know what works for me and at the end of the day, it's all about getting out with your camera or friends and trying something new. As you spend more time with your camera, your photography will improve. Woodland or landscape photography benefits greatly from the golden hour at the end of the day. Light is best in the morning or evening. In addition, I would like to mention one more time. In terms of photography, this is the most important factor for me. Separation is caused by isolating space. Work out how to isolate trees and create greater separation if this can be understood. With photography, you will certainly be able to accomplish more.


Photographing trees and woodlands requires patience and a keen eye for detail. Just like these majestic beings that stand tall for centuries, photographers must slow down, compose their shots thoughtfully, and capture the unique beauty of nature. By taking the time to appreciate the intricate details and the serene presence of trees, photographers can create truly special and timeless images that reflect the essence of these enduring natural wonders.


Finally, as always, thank you for taking the time and checking out this content your support is much appreciated.


As a Vanguard ambassador an affiliate code is available for all products


CNP10

A group of trees images
Selection of tree photographs




Chris Nowell photography



A small oak tree surrounded by large trees
Chris Nowell Photography

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page