Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hidden Gems in the Open Woods

For a lot of us, when we think of fall photography, we tend to think of those spectacular 2 or maybe even 3 weeks of panoramic rainbows covering the landscape like a painters palette. The enormous abundance of deep, fully saturated reds, oranges and yellows almost burn our brain with what we expect to see when we talk about fall.

When the leaves are just about all scattered on the forest floor, the fall landscape at times can seem pretty dreary but in small pockets can surprise you with unique insight into the forest.

While driving along several blocks of forest early one morning I noticed how the forest floor seemed to glow in the low sun and at the same time create strong shadows of the trees adding texture to the forest bed. I grabbed the camera and headed into the wood area.

The low light was causing the leaf-covered floor to appear alive and the singular trees, now stripped bare of their leaves, were standing as dark sentinels to the last gasp of summer.

Your eyes have the ability to ignore extraneous detail as we gaze about, but the camera sees all and therefore we tend to have too much small-branch detail in the foreground to create a gripping picture.

This happened for me at the edge of the forest, so I decided to walk along some of the paths in the woods to see if there were better vantage points for less cluttered shots. I came upon this tree, which still had the vast majority of its leaves and with the sun almost coming directly from the side, these leaves radiated against the blue cool morning sky.

Through the wooded areas there are many pathways that wind through the area. The image below was taken of a pathway that went along a small ridge. The foot trail seemed very evident while I was standing in the woods. Later as I was reviewing the images, these pathways did not jump out as much as I remembered. That is one of the difficulties with a 2 dimensional object trying to truly reflect what our three-dimensional eyes capture.

With this image, increased the saturation in the fallen leaves was needed as the eye remembers them being more vivid. I then removed some of the colour (saturation) in leaves just on the trail, since these tend to loose some of their colour as people walk along the pathway, naturally. It was necessary to further darken this pathway, as it still wasn’t standing out as much as I remembered. This is partly due to the fact that the camera is not quite able to capture the complete vibrancy of the leaves and therefore the slight muted tones of the pathway are now not as much different in tonal qualities. The image was then cropped to remove some of the trees that did not really add to the scene.

The above file sequence shows some of the enhancements and editing I did to produce the final image.

Further along within a bed of leaves there was this small moss like plant that still had a bit of the morning frost along its edges.

With a lot of landscape scenery and even more so when the forest has completely shed its green canopy, our eyes tend to focus on, and even remember more vividly, those small changes of tones in the forest. This compounded by the fact that our visual absorption is over a period of time and as our memory records these multiple exposures that only capture the best part of the scenery. That is why when we look at our captured images, they never seem quite as bright and vibrant or shimmery.

With the use of photo editing software we are able, with the use of selective techniques, to bring back into the print with some of what the mind retains from our visual journey.

While there may be a need in many images for overall brightness, contrast and colour saturation improvement, it’s by the selective use within the image that our greatest benefits occur. Only by adjusting brightness or reducing tones in those primary elements that can we trick the mind into seeing with the single snapshot, a time elapsed event.

Because film and digital camera are never able to render the full range of tones and colours we see, we can, by reducing these in other areas of our image, make those parts appear brighter in relation to the duller parts. Or if a central object does not jump pout enough we can achieve the same by darkening and reducing saturation with the bordering areas.

Niels Henriksen

A photographer’s Adage

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see. -Dorothea Lange

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