There is an underlying principle to observing nature that most people maybe don’t
fully appreciate even if they understand it. It is miraculous, beautiful and fascinating
at every level. You can zoom in from a view of the entire earth through a spaceship
window, down through the eyepiece of a microscope and at every instant in between
it is just stunning. How many wildlife photographers get excited about the pictorial
possibilities of the moss that they sit on while they wait for the fox to come by.
I get out there and my attention is dragged this way and that by things that catch
my eye. I fell asleep today counting the bluebell spears pushing through the moss
when I should have been watching out for the deer that Loz saw further along the
ride. It is sensory overload for me and that makes it doubly frustrating when I struggle
to get a picture that does it all justice. So today I tried close ups and landscapes,
detail and generalities, colour and black and white.
The picture above is a better example of what I mean than anything I can write. The
detail, the lushness, the colours, the variety of species (at least four mosses ,
various lichens and liverworts, bluebells and grasses all on one small dead stump.
Just the richness of it all, really. Everything I like about plants is here.
A wind blown dead pine throws bright green fresh, living growth up into the sunlight
that streams through the hole in the canopy of a dense forest that its demise has
created. Death creating life. I like the texture of the many fine side branches in
the background and the soft ferns in the foreground as well; my favourite picture
of the day.
These images are all the product of a recent return visit to the Forest of dean.
Ostensibly we were once more on the trail of boar, but as usual, I was distracted
by the surroundings and these are the pick of the bunch. Unusually for me, I planned
many of the crops and colour to black and white conversions before taking the pictures
and I suppose that counts as progress.
What caught my eye for this first image (above), were the subtle colours and tones
on the bark of these coppiced birches, beeches and sweet chestnuts. Although I could
obviously see the whole of these trees, I selected the most colourful area with
the densest branches and the biggest, and most pleasing colour palette. By cropping
as I have, the focus is on those colours and the vertical lines, and any distracting
effect of land and sky would be eliminated.
The next image was taken from within a dense and gloomy pine plantation. There was
a distinct change of atmosphere at the margins, from damp and lush to dry and bright.
From dense, mature, coniferous woodland to a sparse, open and bright, deciduous clearing.
The colour shift from black and green to pale grey and brown, I found very interesting,
and I had to take many frames to get a balance of exposure that I could tidy up at
home to show this.
The left of these two pictures is of a tree plate. The large flat ‘plate’ of roots
that are ripped up when a tree blows over on shallow soil. The tree was now dead,
but I found it interesting that the, apparently, more fragile foxglove and the holly
seedling were barely affected by this disaster, simply turning their heads once more
to the light and growing on upwards. A bonus was the shaping of the tree root which
reminds me very much of a deer reaching up to eat leaves as if from a standing tree.
The right hand picture is an indulgence. Like all of these shots it was taken using
filters to allow a very long (up to four minutes in some cases) exposure. Initially
I was simply trying to catch the dappled light leaking through to the trees. I didn’t
really work as I had hoped, the long exposure, the filters and the changing light
gave the photo an archaic, somewhat faded look rather as I used to get from my old
instamatic camera. However, whilst waiting for the frame to expose properly I decided
to take part and produce a very rare selfie of sorts. I walked into frame, stood
still for fifteen or twenty seconds and walked back out of shot. The shutter speed
was so slow that I was moving too fast to be recorded as I walked, but managed to
stand still long enough to come out in somewhat ghostly fashion. It is an echo in
visual form, I was there briefly. This won’t be the last time I try this.
I don’t do a lot of black and white, but both of these pictures were taken with the
express intention of converting them from colour. I am no expert in this field, but
the strong, muscular feel of the tree roots in the top one and the corded, veins
of ivy growing up this mature tree looked like they would suit the format. Neither
contained much colour of any worth anyway, in fact they appear quite bland in the
unconverted form. This works much better.
This large tree below stood out because of the wicked slash in the bark, presumably
caused when it had been struck by lightning. The burn caused by its path to earth
had healed over but low down there was an interesting, if a little damaged, bracket
fungus living on the dead wood. Most of the photographers that I have been out with
could never bring themselves to take a picture of anything, never mind a toadstool
that was less than perfect, but the damage in this case seems to add character and
interest to the shape. It almost seems that any imperfection casts doubt over their
ability to get the ‘perfect’ picture. I took the first image here to tell the story,
but I couldn’t resist some close-ups once I had noticed the beautiful and subtle
shapes and colours on the underside of the fungus.
A tree is a wonderful thing, at every level from the perfection in miniature of a
tiny seedling through to the grandeur of a centuries old mature giant. I was drawn
to the cloud like formations in the crown of this tree, but in taking several images
at various exposures, this one stood out. Somewhat over-exposed, the colours of the
branches and the dark fringes of the crown are very pleasing on the eye, on my eye
I find small sapling and tiny trees fascinating. To think that this tiny beech could
live for hundreds of years and grow to 60 feet or more, yet already be as perfect
as it is, is a wonder however you see it. The dark branches silhouette well against
the bright out of focus background, but there is still enough detail to show the
white bark and the rich brown, dead leaves that stay on the tree over winter until
the spring buds push them off. There is something of the bonsai about this one, its
bark has some character, maybe more than one would expect in a tree of such a small
The next picture is about lines. Like everything else in nature, I find the colours
appealing too. I saw the way that the orange beech leaves were growing in horizontal
layers among the strong verticals of the more mature trunks and decided to make a
picture like the one at the top of the page, where the top of the trees and the foreground
would be cropped away to draw attention to what it was that I was seeing. I am not
sure why, but on framing the picture, I realised that the diagonal saplings splaying
out towards the top corners added movement to a still picture and so took the shot.
It was a good example, I think, of the way in which the brain sees something subliminally
that doesn’t initially register with the conscious mind.
A ‘lucky’ shot is often not a fluke at all, merely the product of the brain being
ahead of the eyes when it comes to selecting subject matter. Maybe that is where
the true artist scores, in that he can realise and interpret more effectively what
the subconscious has seen, than the rest of us lesser mortals can.
In keeping with the idea that there is merit in a collection of images while there
may not be a single one within it that is of any great quality, I look back at this
selection taken in a single morning and like it a great deal, so that was a pretty
good trip all around for me, even if I still never spotted any of the elusive boar
that seem to be filmed wandering through the local high street whenever a reporter