#TheTreesStillGrow

Misty Woods in Richmond Park

For those of you who enjoy woodland photography, you may already be aware of Simon Baxter and if you’re not then I recommend checking out his YouTube channel, you’ll be in for a treat.

In response to Simon’s call a few weeks ago to tell our own particular stories of woodland/landscape photography (and where he explains the meaning behind the hashtag), I thought I’d write a little bit about my style as it’s not quite the traditional idea of photographing woodland. I like to include wildlife to bring the scene alive – but I need to start at the beginning, as my progression has been influenced by several factors.

Although landscapes were my main interest when I began photography (many years ago now with film), my personal tastes have changed over time, as I suppose happens with a lot of photographers – the more time we spend photographing, the more subjects & genres we tend to seek out, some to discard once dabbled in and others to specialise and focus on.

Back in those early days, I’d have been looking to make images such as this from the Lake District (I grew up in North Wales so have an affinity for the mountains):

Ullswater

A few years ago, I started a project to photograph a single tree through the seasons. I’d found it during some meandering walks with my camera on Esher Common, probably around the time I became more interested in woodland photography. I made some nice images of this young beech tree growing among a copse of pine trees, looking so diminutive against those tall trunks:

Unfortunately, it didn’t end well as that tree was cut down during some “thinning” operations to protect the nearby A3 road! I’m still looking for a suitable replacement.

As I live close to Richmond Park, inevitably it became my local “hunting ground” for photography subjects, mostly landscapes such as this:

Pen Ponds in Richmond Park

… and the occasional woodland image:

Richmond Park

While at first I avidly avoided photographing the deer, not wanting to be associated with the annual “hunt” of photographers chasing after the deer during the autumn rut, it wasn’t long before I fell into it almost by accident and then became addicted (there’s a little side story here explaining how that happened).

I acquired a decent enough long telephoto lens, which allowed me to make the deer the dominant subject within the image without getting too close, trying to “fill the frame” (as we are so often encouraged to do by photography magazines), something along these lines:

Fast forward a couple of years and I’d switched from Canon to Fuji, who hadn’t yet released any long telephoto lenses for their comparatively new system, so I was making do with a shorter length until they came out. This, of course, gave me far less “reach” and I was obliged to include more of the surrounding environment, as it’s not safe to approach too closely and also stressful for the deer if you do.

I found that I liked this new viewpoint which I had temporarily imposed upon myself, even to the point that when Fuji did release longer lenses I chose the shorter of the two in the range. So my current style for deer & woodland photography is more along these lines, where the deer get far less real estate within the image and are usually offset against a nearby tree, conveying a sense of place and more of a feel for the location:

In a way, it’s as if my woodland photography and wildlife photography coalesced into something between the two. I found the inclusion of the surrounding woodland gave the images some drama and told more of a story, especially during autumn with lovely light and colours, and hopefully invoking an emotional response in the viewer. So these days, I don’t go hunting for the deer, I look for the light and the setting and just hope that I get lucky and find deer too!

I’ve had a favourite section of woodland in the park for a few years now (where the lead image was taken, the light can be sublime) and now a favourite tree as well (but in the opposite direction from the car park!) and I often find myself drawn to these areas when the conditions look good, although it can be difficult deciding which direction to take. I was lucky enough one morning to capture this lovely scene, it’s one of my all-time favourites:

Autumn Sunrise in Richmond Park

How about you? Do you have a #TheTreesStillGrow story that you can tell?

If you’d like to purchase any of my images, I have several available online here.

* Each image above can be clicked for a larger version.

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