Landscape Photography – A beginner’s guide to woodland


If you’re interested in woodland
photography and you’ve always struggled on how to compose your images within
the woods and the forests, this is the video for you. My name is Julian Elliott
and I am a professional landscape and travel photographer. If you want to keep
up with my exploits as a professional landscape and travel photographer make
sure you click on the subscribe button just down there The absolute first step when it comes to
woodland photography is to go to somewhere that you know and that you can
practice. Why? Because you know it. And if you’re familiar with your surroundings,
like this woodland here which is about five minutes drive from where I live in
France, then you’re going to be able to create more successful images from that
particular area and also you’ll get to know the intricacies of this particular
woodland. So for me for example I know when it rains heavily where I’m stood
floods. I’ve had images, I think it was back in April or so, whereby this
whole area was flooded I had a really nice sunny day with blue sky white
fluffy clouds and I was able to get the reflections all in this woodland plus
the reflections of all the tree stumps here. So that is the first step to
creating your successful images within woodland. Get to know one of your local
areas. The next step to think about when
creating your woodland images is the light and the quality of the light.
Woodland is great in that it works both in flat light and also sunny light and
also when you have that low mist and there is the sun breaking through the
mist in the early morning creating those really nice ethereal looking images.
Absolutely wonderful soft light in the morning. You can’t beat it. So as I said
it works great in flat light. Today we have flat light. It’s a very overcast day,
there’s no long shadows anywhere and it pretty much works as you will see, not
necessarily here, but certainly in the next location
that we’ll be working on further on into the video.So that’s the next step you
must think about is light and the quality of the light in your woodland. Once you’ve got to know your local
woodland, and you’ve thought about the quality of the light that you want in
that woodland, the next step to think about is lens choice. Obviously we have
wide-angle; 50mm; short telephoto and long telephoto. Each of those
lenses will work in a particular area of woodland. Wide-angle, for example, is great
if you’ve got some foreground interest. We don’t really have any foreground
interest in this particular woodland so the next step up is to think about is it
somewhere around 35 or 50 millimeters that we’re going to work in. Here, because I
visit it very often, I know that around 50 mil and above works. Why? Because it
helps to compress a lot of the trees together and create a very nice
composition. Telephoto it kind of works in here but it brings things maybe too
close. So here, for example, I’m always thinking it’s around 50 to 70
millimeters. So 50 millimeters how our eyes see and then 70 millimeters so it starts
to compress things just a little but not too much. But what I’m going to do is I’m
going to take a picture.The same picture, the same composition and show you why
each of them does and doesn’t work so you can see what it is that I’m talking
about here in this particular woodland. I’ve set up my camera and I’ve put on a
zoom lens which is 28 millimeters to 70 millimeters and that’s because it gives
me most of the focal lengths that I would use in this particular woodland
specifically for me 50 millimeters and 70 millimeters. At the moment it’s set at
28 and you can see it’s it’s okay is probably maybe a little bit too wide. But
what I’ve done is I put this central trunk here in the middle this is what I
really want to focus on and you can see on the third’s here there is actually a
trunk and a trunk as well and the foreground is maybe just off the bottom
of the third and going toward the middle but not quite. But it’s just too wide and
especially on a day like today there’s nothing in the sky and it’s just white
and it’s going to be blown out so that’s 28 millimeters wide angle and that for
me is why this particular scene doesn’t work at wide-angle. If I turn live view back on again and I
go into 50 millimeters you will see, if I slightly adjust my composition just a
little bit, just around here that things start to become more compressed these
trunks in the background are becoming more prominent whereas they were quite
far away because of the wide angle of the lens so they’re starting to become a
lot more compressed into the scene and it’s how we see it with our eyes as our
eyes see around 50 millimeters focal length. So you can see there on the 3rd
we’ve got these trunks here so they’re starting to come in nicely. The
foreground is dropping down just a touch we’re losing the sky so when losing the
emphasis on what’s going to be an overexposed sky. Things are starting to
look that lot nicer. Let’s go in just a little bit more so if I go to roughly
here, and what I’m doing if I just turn live you back on, I’m paying very close
attention to these corners here. So this here this branch, this trunk here is
frustrating for me so I’m zooming in just to remove it from the frame then
I’m going to push this down just a little bit and then what you’ll see is that we
have an image that’s starting to look a lot more composed and a lot more
organized and we’re starting to see the wood for the trees so if I take that
image then you’ll see the difference between this image and the wide-angle
image and how using 50 millimetres and longer in the woodland can help
emphasize those tree trunks. Bring things closer together. Compress them and help
to create a more balanced image. As I said, you can use wide-angle but I think
you’ll find a lot of the time you’re probably working 35 millimetres and up
where you’re starting to get more of an emphasis on bringing things together and
creating a more balanced image. For the composition of our images it’s
good to start somewhere like this and the reason is because it’s an orderly
wood. It’s actually a man-made wood everything’s been planted in an orderly
fashion and so you can work things out a lot quicker than if you were to go in
just to a woodland, in your local woodland that’s been there for hundreds
of years. Because everything’s planted we can start to find compositions a lot
easier and then we can take that knowledge and transport it into a normal
woodland that’s been there for hundreds of years and it’s just a tangle of branches,
trees, trunks and whatever else. So I’ll just
explain some of the compositions that you can do here in this particular type
of woodland so you can get an idea how we’re going to transport it back
into a proper woodland and that’s been there for a few hundred years or. So this
is the first type of composition that you could do in this managed woodland.
You can use the avenue here and here to create a line of interest going in and
in to go back towards here. The only slight problem with this is there isn’t
really anything back here to create any interest. There is some moss or something
up there in the tree I think it might be mistletoe back there it’s lying on that
third. Detail-wise what I am looking at, and I might do in a bit, is just here
there’s a huge mushroom which I might go and take a shot of. It looks quite
interesting. But that’s the kind of first kind of composition that you could do
here in this managed woodland. This is another example of a composition
that you could do here in this managed woodland. It’s similarish to when i was
demonstrating the focal length in that the tree trunk is in the middle and
other things start dropping in behind it. However this time the grass is more
along the top third but it’s another example of something
that you could do here in this managed woodland when you’re starting to see the
wood for the trees. Hopefully you’ve seen in this managed
woodland how I started to create compositional elements to be able to
bring some kind of order into a final image. So what I’m going to do from here
is decamp into an ancient woodland and we’re going
to see how we can manage that and bring some kind of order to the chaos of an
ancient woodland. So we’ve swapped managed woodland for chaos. Ancient woodland. Where do you look? Well if you take some of those elements of composition like
the rule of thirds or like the managed woodland where we placed the tree trunk
in the middle. If you start to look around and start positioning yourself;
the tree trunk here or here and just move so when you move here you’ll see
behind in the background that the other tree’s move. Try to position things in
such a way that you order the chaos of this ancient woodland. So I’ve found
something it’s taken me about 15 minutes or so just wandering around in here just
to have a look see what it is that I could find and I’ve started to pick
things up. I’ve never actually walked in this woodland. I’ve driven past it many
times. It’s only five minutes from my house. But I’m taking the time today just to have a look; see what’s here and see what
I can do with the chaos of this ancient woodland. As a first composition and the
first time here this is something that I’ve found just wandering around as I
said to see what it is that I could come up with. So I’ve placed this tree here not
it’s kind of on the third but not really is actually off the third itself and
then I’ve placed the foreground so it’s just up shy of the middle and then
there’s a color here and the background from all the autumn leaves. As well as
that I’ve started to try and make some sense of the background. So I’ve used a
corner up here for one of the branches that’s going off and up here as well. It
could possibly be just adjusted slightly there and the very simple reason is so
I’ve got this branch going up in this corner here and also here I’m creating
some separation which I didn’t have before. So that it’s not just a tree trunk in the corner here there’s actually some
color going here so you’ve got these bands of color and the tree trunks
themselves. Down here you have this new tree that’s growing up which is creating
interest on the third. So that’s the first composition that I’ve done here. I’ll
just take a snap and then you can see when the image pops up in a minute how
that looked when we were here in this part of the woodland. Let’s move on to
something else and to show you how to bring more order to the chaos that you
see in front of you. There’s two more elements that I want to
add into composition within your image. The first is leading lines and as you
can see that’s running through me there’s this path that’s probably just
been created by animals such as deer and boar that we get here in central France.
They’ve created a pathway through the woodland. And that is another
compositional element that you can add in. Leading lines will always take your
viewer from the edge and bring them into the image let them look around and let
them explore. The next thing that I want to talk about and it’s extremely
important in woodland is the polarizing filter. And what that does is it
removes any glare from the leaves so yesterday it was raining a lot here so
there’s a lot of water on the ground. A lot of water on the leaves in the trees.
That polarizer filter is going to cut through the glare and be able to add
in more saturation to the image. So I will just show you what it is that I’ve
set up at the moment to give you an idea of how it is that I’m looking at this
scene and what you might be able to take away from it and be able to put into
your own images. This is the image that I’ve set up. I saw this path here while I
was walking along the main path. It’s not the main path obviously as I said it
looks like it’s been made by animals as it’s indistinct but it’s distinct enough
to give us an idea of a compositional element. And as you can see I’ve started to
arrange things here so this tree here the trunk is on the bottom third then
which is going out and then up to the top. I’ve cut out a lot of the sky as
it’s distracting and I’ve just started to arrange everything else so I’ve made
sure that there’s no trunks that are intruding on the edges here of the frame
and there’s no unwanted elements there at the top. So that for me, it starts to
create some order again out of the chaos that we have here in the woodland and
also as I said there’s a polarizer on the front which is taking the glare away
from the water that’s on the leaves that was from the fallen rain
yesterday so that’s helping to saturate the image a lot more than it is. So I’ll
take it a photo with the polarizer and without the polarizer so
you can see the difference and why it is that you should actually make sure you
have that polarizer with you and that it’s not just for those blue sky days. For this last sequence on woodland
photography, I want to use a blue sky day combined with the color in the trees to
help enhance the composition because very often all we hear about is the rule
of thirds; leading lines and s-curves. All these kind of things in composition.But
we never really hear about color. So if you look at a color wheel you’ll see
that yellow and blue are near to one another on the color wheel
thus they complement one another in any composition that you might
choose to use them in. The other thing that I’m going to do is I’ve changed my
lens to a wide-angle lens. So here I’ve got a Canon 17-40 millimeter lens. So
very, very wide angle of view. And when I look up, which is the last thing
that I want to do, it’s actually going to help the trees loom in above me while
looking up at the blue sky and the golden colors of the yellow leaves up
there. All the autumn color. So let’s take a shot and then see what it is that I’m
doing with that shot. So what am i doing when I’m looking up at those trees
trying to get an image that pleases me? Well the first thing that I do is I put
my camera in aperture priority and that’s very simple. The only reason I’m
doing that is just to take a few things off my mind what I’m composing my image
handheld. And in aperture priority I’m then adding in around one stop of
exposure compensation just to open things up a bit. The 6D has enough
exposure latitude that I know it will give me what I want for around
two-thirds of a stop or a stop over the the middle point on your exposure meter.
The next thing that I’m doing is I’m enabling the back button focusing on my
camera so that when I’m looking up my thumb is doing the focusing so I press
where I want to in the image to focus the camera and then when I’ve got what I
want my index finger then clicks the shutter to get the composition that I
want. So that’s it for this tutorial on
woodland photography. Hopefully you’ve picked up a few things here and there
and see how I finely compose some of my other images although it’s done in
woodland it might give you an idea as to how to really look at what it is that
you’re doing when you’re composing your images on the back of your camera. Will
there be more tutorials? There will be more tutorials! There’s going to be a
tutorial on a 10 stop ND filter very soon. As well as a few others so
make sure you click the subscribe button down there in the bottom right hand
corner and you’ll get notification whenever it is that I upload any videos.
So thanks very much for to all of my subscribers. See you again soon!

29 Replies to “Landscape Photography – A beginner’s guide to woodland”

  1. A deviation from some of my regular vlog material in the form of a tutorial for beginner's.

    Hopefully those of you out there who struggle where to see an image in the woods will gain some insights from there. And of course please feel free to comment!

  2. was just dealing with these composition issues a few days ago here in Virginia. Good video, very good to see how you view these issues through your eyes!

  3. Great tutorial Julian. Very informative for the novice to the seasoned professional. Well done and a very well produce vlog. Greg

  4. Thankyou for that Julian, very, very useful ..I love woodland photography being on the edge of the New Forest but find compositions very difficult..this has definitely helped and given some food for thought..

  5. Another great in depth tutorial Julian. I'm going to watch and rewatch your videos .I like your teaching style. Great.

  6. most difficult thing there is in photography is to go and make a picture in a bland situation where you only have composition , colour and light which i think this is about , enjoyed it

  7. Julian, I've sat and watched every vlog you have produced at least twice, and I must say, I don't think that I have ever seen photographs that "pop" as much as yours do. The clarity in your work and image fidelity is absolutely stunning. Sure, the light in which you shoot has much to do with it, as does good glass and correctly exposing a vista, but your processing of the raw files seems very refined and exceptionally sophisticated. This is something that is rarely seen on most photographic landscape channels. Greg

  8. Julian,

    As both a stock and fine-art landscape photographer, I appreciate your insight. Keep the "wellies" handy!

    Thank-You,
    Mike

  9. An excellent and informative film. Would you recommend the 5dmkii as a reasonable starter camera, for someone that wants to get into photography? Or would you go for something more current?

  10. You just never know when and where you might learn something. Thanks, I'll try some of these techniques the next time I'm in the woods.

  11. Thank you for the insight. My woodland photos have never excited me but your video and comments have given me something to think about next time I take to the woods

  12. Hi Julian

    Another good one so keep up the good work. I have been reviewing some of your previous vlogs and yet again am struck by your processing which seems to have a continuity and lightness of touch which I find hard to emulate in my own work. I know I have asked this before but any chance you can give us a few pointers as to how it is done?

    Ken Bound

  13. New to your channel Julian and have subscribed. I'm in NY where we have an abundance of woodlands which are chaotic! Your tips will be put to good use. I'll look forward to viewing some of your other videos over the coming days.

  14. Thanks for this tutorial and for the one on ND filter use. I have taken some woodland shots which I was moderately pleased with but the colours did not really stand out. I realise now that I should (and will) use my polariser. You have a easy way of getting the information over which still gets the point across. Thanks again.

  15. This video was very helpful. I am new to Photography. I live in Alabama (USA). Our state is rich in woods, rivers, lakes, mountains, and coastal waters. I am inspired to start local and share our beautiful state with others. Thanks.

  16. Thank you for a great tutorial, Julian! As a beginner, I especially found very useful to see the difference in applying different focal distance and how it influences the picture. Keep up the great work!

  17. Enjoyed this tutorial/sharing. Reminded me to slow down and enjoy the details, and to think more about focal length and aperture 🙂

  18. Thanks you very much. Most people only give tips on Camera settings. But you give guidelines on composition, which is what I am looking for. Always lost in how to compose in a woodland. Thanks you, I'll try your tips.

  19. Great guide!
    One tip for you tho. When showing differences in two photos, as with polarized and unpolarized, make a faster transition between then. Easier to spot how big the difference is.
    Thanks for awesome advices!

  20. Julian, thank you for this excellent video! All I have around me is chaotic woodlands and prairies no hills or mountains. I will take your tips tomorrow and see what I can do. This really was helpful!!

Leave a Reply to Jason Ledwar Photography Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *