Seeing the trees for the forest

By Mark

We still have a few topics left undone from our Great Smoky adventure.  When you normally think of landscape photography, you immediately think of sweeping vistas and scenic views.  I believe that the details can evoke as much imagery of the area as can the broader picture.  Your macro lens can capture the little objects in the woods that often get overlooked, but which build up for those grander images.  I only shot a small percentage-about 4 percent, of the images on the trip with the 105, but had they made up 8 percent of my final picks versus all the other lenses. 

Throughout the forest floor there is a continuous battle raging as the new trees and plants struggle to catch the sunshine coming through the big trees.  In small pockets, often where old trees have fallen and died, you will discover the first signs of new growth.  Delicate flowers and ferns.  As with most macro work, it really helps to have your tripod with you.  The ability to establish a solid baseline, especially when you are shooting with an extremely shallow depth of field, makes a significant difference.  Even the slight breeze made it challenging to get the flowers to stand steady.  Often you can use your body as a shield, but that morning, the light and the wind were coming from the same direction and I really didn’t want my shadow to interfere.  Patience and the luxury of shooting a digital camera, helped me get a picture I liked.

One of the hardest things to photograph well, at least for me, is the carpet of bright green moss, which covers large parts of the semi-rainforest sections of the park.  It is challenging to find something distinctive to serve as the subject and focus point for a photo.  Here a fallen leaf, provides both scale and a centering point.

I’ve always been fascinated by the details on the trees themselves.  Both pine trees and birch trees produce interesting textures.  You need to be careful though as some people find that the sap can sting. Yes, their bark is much worse than their bite.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, since the emphasis is usually on the texture, bark photos often lend themselves to Black and White conversion.  In this case, I used Nik Color Effects detail extractor first, then Silver Effects for the final processing.  

In keeping with that whole “circle of life” thing, take notice of the artifacts of death and decay as well.  The fallen trees, and their regeneration provides nutrients for the next generations. Fall leaves especially provide rich color and interesting textures. As everyone knows I am really a fun guy, so I like spotting the various mushrooms all over the trees.  These simple organisms have lots of detail that are really brought out by close up pictures. 

Hope everyone is getting out and shooting away their winter blues.