I feel like we're probably in the point of the year when nature appears at its least colourful, so it might be a nice time to indulge in the visuals from another season. Back in the autumn I shared some photos from an autumn leaf project I was working on at the time, but I didn't share any wider autumn views. I figured I'd wait until the new year, when we most want that injection of colour; when it's not on our doorstep, or out our windows, or on our daily walks.
We had a good autumn, colour-wise. My first successful photo comes from a silver birch plantation, which creates these densely-packed walls of foliage. On this occasion the ferns were also a great combination of colours, which complements the trees nicely.
This is a photo I kept thinking I should remove from this batch, as it doesn't really have the classic ingredients of a popular image. But when did that ever stop me before? Every time I hovered over the relegate button I wasn't able to do it, because I really like it. And I don't even know why. I just do. It's understated, but it really conveys the feeling of autumn. There shouldn't be a bright dividing line down the middle of a photo. One side shouldn't be much more colourful than the other. There are no leading lines, no clever tricks of composition, except breaking the rules. I guess sometimes that just works. Well it does to me anyway. It has that tapestry quality I like in a woodland image. I quite like to see a borderline-abstract mix of colour and texture; organised chaos. That's the woodland environment.
This is from a local woodland I started exploring during the spring (AKA #Lockdown1). With a low sun, the light pours in from one side, softly lighting the tree trunks and the uneven leaf-lined walking trails.
This group of silver birches have had to be fenced in, after a spate of attacks on ramblers.
OK, really not sure about this one. I nearly didn't include it here. It's just too showy. A bit Instagrammy. I've tried to tone it down, but it always looks wrong. There's just a lot to deal with, technically, shooting into the sun and in a scene that's so shifted colour-wise to the warm spectrum. Well, I guess it's nice to have a range of aesthetics in a collection sometimes, so it made it in.
Keeping the sun out of shot makes for a less dramatic result, but that's generally what I want in a woodland scene. I'd rather think of trees as geography teachers than rock stars. Clad in browns and oranges; sedate, ponderous, steady.
Throwing another experiment in there now. I quite like it.
If you're interested in the science behind autumn leaves, take a look at this article for BBC Springwatch, which examines the biology and chemistry involved.
In November we had a number of very foggy mornings. Sometimes lasting all day. Mist and fog are the perfect partner for woodland photography, and the combination has pretty much spawned a sub-genre of nature photography in recent years. The reason fog is so effective in these types of images is that it softens the background textures, and creates depth. It's also hugely atmospheric. Fog dampens sound, and is only possible when there's no wind. And I think we innately detect that quiet tranquillity in the images we see too; matching what we see before us with our past experiences of the environment.
Bedfordshire isn't amazing for scenery but there are a few pockets of appealing woodland, and I'm lucky to have a few options within walking/cycling distance.
I think this one's a nice welcoming scene. Maybe because I know it's taken from one end of a woodland walkway, but I find the distribution of the trees to be very welcoming. I want to wander through.
There's a mixture of tree-types in this local woodland. That's what provides the combination of colours and textures.
This was an appealing view; as the arching branch of this foreground tree wraps around to frame the monochromatic birch trees behind. I don't think it has quite the delicacy I was trying to capture at the time, but it's an interesting visual all the same.
OK, well I started off talking about the colours of autumn, and I concede that this one is hardly colourful. But believe it or not this is a colour image. I was stumbling around in a fir tree plantation on an exceptionally foggy morning when I found this particular set of pines which all had this bright white, silvery bark. The perfect compliment for the dense foggy atmosphere. I don't know what's left them like this; fungus, lichen, or something else, but I like the result.
I usually dedicate an entire post to autumn deer photography, but things didn't work out that well this time around. The weather was a bit odd, and the deer never stood in the right place at the right time. I can't blame them for that - they don't realise they're supposed to stand majestically on a misty hillside at sunrise. But I've got three autumnal deer photos to share at the end of this post.
This one's a white fallow deer, who did kindly stop to pose in a shaft of sunrise light. But I prefer this black and white version of it, which takes full advantage of the white deer against the shaded background, to create a nice graphic result without the complication of colour.
A similar situation here, but in this case, the warm light really compliments the reddish hue of this sika deer. This is pretty much my favourite light to photograph wildlife, but it only lasts a few minutes a day - and that's if it's not cloudy. So it's not wonder I only manage a couple a year.
Last one. A straight up portrait of a gnarly red deer. The deer do have differing patience with people. Some will skittishly trot away as you appear on the horizon, and others like this stag will stare you down and maintain their dominance. It's a welcome opportunity to capture a close-up, which can be very hard to come by.
Well all this talk of autumn has me in nostalgic mood. It's a great time to be out and pushing my boots through the leaves. But as I write this, spring is just around the corner, and as the days get longer, so nature will burst back into action again. When you're out for a walk over the coming weeks, take a close look at the tree branches. They'll be starting to bud; packing their twigs with all the ingredients to kick-start the next season, and a whole new swatch of colours.
Post by George Wheelhouse, 2021.