Right now we are experiencing a heatwave in northern Europe and that of course comes with a lot of sun and hard shadows. Try to use it to your benefit.
These days we are melting in northern Europe and it could be easy to give landscape photography a break, however, you can use this kind of light and wind conditions to your benefit. In the video above, I do some summer woodland photography and in it, I share a few lessons learned.
You of course need some gear to do your photography and I prefer to make it as practical as possible for myself. My favorite woodland photography lens is the 24-105mm. It covers everything from wide-angle to short telephoto, so I rarely have to change the lens to get my photo. That being said it is of course important to understand that your gear does not conjure up great photos. You have to do the work of finding the compositions and use the light to your advantage.
Speaking of light it can be rather hard during summer and forests are no exception. I would still recommend not going during midday. Try to hit a time where the sun is about 30 degrees above the horizon. The sun is far enough up for it to shine through the canopy, however, far enough down as to give a bit softer light. The further down the sun comes, the closer to the forest’s edge you have to be to benefit from the light. I would also recommend seeking out back-lit compositions. Leafs, needles, spider webs, and everything you will find in the forest benefits greatly from some backlight. It just glows and adds so much magic and beauty to your photos.
Try to play with light and shadow. The dynamic range of forest scenes can be quite high giving some dramatic and high contrast scenes. It is this interplay between a few bright areas and shade you can use to your advantage. Be aware you might need to bracket your photo to capture the entire dynamic range. If there is no wind, which often happens during a heatwave you are in luck. Capturing multiple exposures in a forest really requires the branches and leaves to be completely still.
Woodland photography is all about finding patterns and using light and shadow to your advantage. It is admittedly hard, but not impossible. However, who does not like a challenge? It requires patience to find the compositions and it often happens that I find a beautiful scene with loads of potential, but the light does not work. Luckily, the light and shadows change as the sun change position. In the video, I show a short time-lapse, where you can see how the light change over time. I would recommend to analyze the scene and see if some light is coming your way, which you can use in your composition.
It sounds very basic, but be sure to bring enough water and potentially food when you are out photographing. If the forest is warm and you are walking around and working on your compositions, the worst that can happen is to give up due to overheating, thirst, or hunger. If you give up you do not find your compositions. It is as simple as that! Instead of bringing either you telephoto or wide-angle, bring an extra bottle of water!
Check out the video above and let me hear if you have more tips in the comments below.