Can you see the wood for the trees?
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
Before the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March this year I focused on mainly street photography; environmental and portrait photographs. Visiting family in London we would often go into Town, visit galleries and photograph life in all four corners of London. A little closer to home I would spend a morning in Swindon or in the market towns of Marlborough and Devizes capturing moments of the everyday around me.
Photography is what saves me from the stresses of life and keeps me sane when everything feels like it's going to implode! But with the rapid spread of Coronavirus in the UK, lockdown happened and my world immediately shrunk, as it did for us all, and in order for me to cope with it I had to rethink my approach to photography and what I was going to photograph.
At the top of our village is a wood; 957.69 acres of predominantly Beech trees with sections of Fir trees and interspersed with self-seeding Sycamores. In Spring the wood is famous for its beautiful thick carpet of Bluebells, and twisting through the woods there is a maze of footpaths, trails and bridleways.
I have always loved the wood since we moved here but mainly for getting muddy when mountain biking, with the odd photograph taken when out walking. During lockdown however the wood has become my sanctuary; it has helped me cope with both mental and physical struggles during these extra-ordinary times.
Woods however are not easy to photograph. It is difficult to capture the enormity and expanse of the terrain and the majesty of the trees. The light is ever changing; deep shadows and slithers of sun. You have to look beyond the mass and thickets; it's not just green - it is 50+ shades, hues and tints of green.
It takes a while to become familiar with the different areas in, and the different characteristics of, the wood and now every time I visit I find something new or an alternative angle to photograph. In the main I shoot mostly in black and white with a deep depth of field and use my wide angle lens (Fujifilm 14mm or 16mm) to get a different perspective.
After a while I decided to take a new approach, for in addition to photographing the enormous woodscape, I wanted to capture the miniature world in the woods and so I treated myself (lock-down has proven to be quite expensive) to a macro lens (Fujifilm 80mm f2 1:1) to delve into the mysterious world of nature's small things.
Macro photography has been a whole new learning curve, and still is! Macro photography involves flash photography and being really, really still, silent and patient! It also improves your yoga moves, as you put yourself in precarious positions to get up close and personal to the subject!
With the macro lens you stop seeing the big picture and look at the detail; taking time to study and being still makes you mindful of your environment. It is quite a revelation finding the tiny world in a giant wood and although I still don’t care much for bugs macro photography has made me a little more brave!
So once a week around 8am I can be found with a rucksack of gear and a packet of biscuits roaming 'my' woods. I don’t often meet anyone; there is just the sound of birdsong, squawking pheasants, the cracking of twigs and rustling in the undergrowth. I am lost for a while and then back on a familiar path and two hours later walking back home with my captured moments.
I have gone from the busyness of the London streets to the solitude of the wood and I am really enjoying it. I won’t deny I am looking forward to getting back into Town when the craziness is all over but my love for the woods is strong and is here to stay.
In my pursuit of taking time out, exploring the wood and trying to master new genres of photography I have discovered that if you look carefully you can see the wood for the trees, even in troubled times like these. I have found that in trying something new, however old we are we never stop learning; we are capable of being more flexible and stretching even further than we thought.
If photography is your hobby, passion, career (or all three), take a break and step out of your comfort zone; don't box yourself in with a label - landscape photographer, street photographer, wedding photographer - try other genres, mix it up and see what you discover; find out what you like and even dislike and in the process keep on and enjoy the learning.
Below you will find some of my images from the wood taken during lockdown; I hope you enjoy them.