It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good woodland photography session – and Wistman’s Wood was perfect to get back in the woodland and impressionist photography flow.
I helped My Darling Jules set up her Sew Me Something stand at a textiles fair near Exeter. Whilst she was womanning her stand for a few days I took the time to do some creative photography.
I’ve not spent any proper time doing creative photography since my accident in October 2017 (I broke my back, silly sausage that I am). Jules knew that I needed to get back to my art photography, but I was finding it hard to get motivated to do so. So she got me to come away with her, help her do her stand, and then spend most of the rest of the time waving my cameras about.
I don’t know why I lost my creative mojo, but it wasn’t lurking too far under my skin. Alone with my cameras (stills and video) the layers of resistance soon peeled away and I started to get that familiar energy in my chest, that urge to create.
I started where we had rented our Air BnB, pretty much on the waterfront in the pretty little town of Topsham, but the pull I get towards woodland got me googling.
Wistman’s Wood seemed just my cup of tea, I saw a few photos online and decided to grab a few granola bars, bottle of water and camera gear. Off I drove across Dartmoor.
The wood is a little walk from the car park by the road. It was the furthest I’d walked since losing my battle with gravity. It’s a bit bumpy, the further you get, but I took it easy. A few other other people were tramping to the wood to my fore and aft.
Near the closest edge of the woodland I saw this tree, and had to set up tripod and camera. It was simply the best tree I’d seen in years. Wistman’s wood is full of incredible trees.
I knew I could get held up photographing the gorgeous details here, but wanted to explore the wood further. I only had a couple of hours until sunset.
Pressing on, I got to a part of the wood empty of other explorers.
The sun was coming down, so I had to work fairly fast. This next tree had such a fabulous shape, with mossy boulders below, I had to give it a solar diamond for the evening.
See the ferns in residence on its burly arms.
In some ways, I was here ‘at the wrong time’. The wood is perhaps at its most photogenic when the mists descend, and the light is flat. Then it is a pure palette of green, with foggy net petticoats.
I just couldn’t quite get the photographs I had in my head, the light was harsh, the sky was very bright.
It was time for a break. I sat on a cushioned mossy boulder, refreshing myself with a few bites of granola washed down with Devon water.
It was time to fling away detail. I narrowed my eyes so I could only see colour and form, and ideas started to pile in.
I grabbed my camera, set it up for long exposures, and began using some of my favourite ‘intentional camera movement’ (ICM) techniques.
First was my twist/spin technique that I first used with bluebells several years ago. I quite liked this shot, with just a hint of the blue sky, and the lichen on the trees giving a few highlights.
This technique also works well looking up at the tree canopy too. But I wanted to capture the moss-clad boulders, and so began trying some other movements and compositions.
Less than two minutes after the photograph above, I took this next one.
I had the camera stopped right down, so very little light was coming through the lens. The shutter was open for a fifth of a second. I kept the camera still at first, then at the last moment just before the shutter closed I swept the lens up.
It almost looks like an underwater scene, with light filtering through layers of kelp above.
This next photo used the same settings, taken a bit further into the woods – it looks almost jungle-like I think.
I barely kept the camera still at all, but instead of sweeping up fast to get the long, thin light trails, I moved the lens upwards very little. This gives a very painterly, impressionist effect – broad daubs with a palette knife.
More Photos Soon
There are many more photographs, some of them moving from impressionist to abstract. They’ll have to wait for another day. If you sign up to this blog, or my Five Good Things weekly email of… er… five good things, you’ll know as soon as I put them online.
Wistman’s Wood is incredible – ancient trees, mossy boulders, lichen and ferns dressing the trees up. I could spend days there, and never get bored. It may not have been ‘at its best’, but it was still gorgeous. I’d love to visit again in summer and autumn, just imagine autumn mists there. Let me know if you go, and do let me know what you think of the photographs above.