On another woodland landscape photography visit to Badger Creek in the Yarra Ranges National Park, I met a man who was enjoying a family day out with his partner and daughter.
“What camera is that?” he asked.
“A Nikon,” I admitted and, perhaps too quickly, moved the conversation on with my customary impending-gear-conversation evasion : “Are you a photographer?”
Not to be mist — this image works much better large. If you click on it, you will see what I mean. I used tree ferns and a light pool on the gum tree in an attempt to bring order to the beautiful chaos of a temperate rain forest.
When he told me that he was keen on photography and had a DSLR, I asked what he liked to photograph.
“People and landscapes,” he said, gesturing at the forest around us. “But I just can’t get any decent shots of this kind of thing.”
Almost as a reflex, I offered standard woodland photography advice: ”Mist and murk are what we need. It’s far too nice a day today for woodland photography.” Still on autopilot, I continued to rehearse mist’s contribution to simplifying the scene and, on my iPhone (!), I showed him a recent example.
He seemed convinced and pleased and said he’d be back with his camera on a murky day. (Or he may just have been humouring me! Keep nodding and the weirdo with the camera will go away!
After we parted, I began to feel uneasy about the “wisdom” I’d offered. Not only for my new acquaintance, but for me too. I realised that I’d been walking too fast, dismissing or postponing practically every composition I’d found. All morning, I’d been acting on that same implicit advice. I wasn’t making photographs because the weather was too “nice” for woodland photography.
No mist, no muse?
Could this mean that I had dug myself into the forest equivalent of the “only shoot in the golden hour” rut? Would I default to eschewing these beautiful rain forests and the bush around my home if the light wasn’t “good”?
Another piece of “wisdom” that I regularly give my landscape photography workshop guests is that there is no such thing as bad light; there’s only misunderstood light. (Coined by Donald McCullin). I admonished myself with this more useful truism for a while before resolving to make some mist-free forest images on a second circuit of the reserve.
It’s like a jumble out there. The in-spite-of-small-aperture soft foreground and background in this shot may make this image work better, focusing the viewers attention on the exuberant ribbon bark, or it may offend. I was carrying a 24 mm tilt-shift lens, but I didn’t use it because this composition required 70 mm and I couldn’t get physically closer without trampling the context. I suppose I could have shot it at 24 mm and then exploited the D800 large file cropability. Do both next time …
Have you found that you tend to make photographs of woodland when it is misty, or are you more open-minded?
[My daughter's response to the first photograph: "Watch out for the Gruffalo!]