Coppice, Woodland Art and Life
Today’s practice has me venturing out on a Sunday morning to visit the ancient forest Kings Wood near Ashford in Kent. It is an easy drive, about 45 minutes from my location along the M20. I’ve not been out with the camera all week and decided that a woodland setting would be the best today.
Even though it wasn’t an early start and the sun was bright in the sky by the time I left, I figured since the wood was large and features Conifers and Beeches, there would be a good chance the canopy would obscure and filter the harsh middle-of-the-day sunshine.
What’s the purpose of today’s practice
Today was a response to a couple of landscape photography videos I’d watched over the past week by photographers Thomas Heaton and Simon Booth. The films specifically talked about landscape photography practice during the summer months, even when the conditions are not ideal.
Booth urged that there are always images to be made, whatever the conditions, and that it is possible to get inspired by being more observant. As such, my purpose today was twofold, one to reconnoitre a new location that I’d never been to and to practice observation, the art of seeing and looking for light, contrast and compositions in an environment and in conditions that new.
Why choose the location
The Kings Wood was the choice today because I was looking for an Ancient wood in particular. I had designs on finding an old, gnarly oak tree.
I source locations using Alltrails sometimes, and this one came from this app. Using the app, I can see photos taken by other outdoor walkers, and the look of the wood seemed like it would suit my purpose.
I started to feel excited approaching the location. The drive hinted at what was to come. The wood looked epic. I already knew it was a large forest covering more than 1000 acres; I also knew that I would not make it around the whole trail in one trip.
Got to say, seeing this poster had me a little alarmed. Originally a city girl, I’m used to foxes but snakes!
Still, I was here. I continued into the wood, mindful that I’d need to look where I was treading, especially when moving away from the well-trodden paths. I decided to follow the circular trail laid out in AllTrails and deviate if something caught my eye. The initial few minutes crossed an open meadow, but I could see a path heading deeper into the woods in front of me.
There were numerous walkers and dog owners, but the space is vast, so it in no way felt crowded. I could hear echoes of children shouting and playing and owners calling their dogs. Nothing jumped out at me at first. I spent a good few minutes walking and observing my surroundings, getting a feel for the place.
One of the videos I watched this week from another YouTuber, whose name I’ve forgotten, spoke about how to look for compositions if the view in front of you seems chaotic. His advice was to use a viewer (in my case, my phone) to survey the surroundings. The technique helps you to cut down on what our eyes see, as our peripheral vision takes in much more than what a camera viewfinder would see. In addition to using the phone, his advice was to stand and do a 360-degree turn, and a view would present itself. This I did after about 15 minutes, and sure enough, I spied my first composition.
I spent just over an hour walking, only using just my phone to make images. I used it in black and white mode and square crop aspect ratio to consider the composition and help identify contrasts in a chaotic environment.
After an hour or so walking, once I’d ascending a long but shallow incline, I unpacked the DSLR from the bag and set up the tripod to do some work on around an image I’d seen, not entirely of a lone tree but of a young tree that caught the light coming through the trees. The difference in the light from the sun and underneath the leaves of the tall trees was vast, so I decided to bracket my shots at two stops.
There were two I believe to be worthwhile for further analysis and follow up work. Firstly this image of an avenue of trees and a floor full of ferns.
Secondly, this image showing the dappled sunlight falling on the sapling, growing in the middle of the path, surrounded by its giant cousins.
The wood has a free car park, which is nice and is relatively easy to find once you have the correct postcode. The drive features some winding, fast, country lanes as you get closer, so be aware of this.