Fear of the Woods and The Importance of Play

I have to admit it............I'm afraid of woodland photography.....terrified in fact! 

Phew, I said it and it feels good to get that off my chest.

I mean, I love looking at beautiful pictures of woodland and trees (who doesn't) and I am totally in awe of the photographers that really capture the mood and feel of a woodland. But unfortunatly I don't count myself among them.

When I'm faced with a woodland scene, I initially feel completely overwhelmed at the shear size and chaos of it all. I don't know where to start pointing my camera as there's just so much going on. The longer I look, the more overwhelmed I feel and inevitably, I never really come away with any decent shots.

But here's the thing - I love woodlands. Next to mountains, they are probably one of my favourite natural environments.

I find woodlands and forests extremely therapeutic. I live very close to several protected woodlands and I always feel the benefit when I go for a wonder in the woods. There's something about the sounds, the smell, the air and the general mood of a wood that seems to earth me and help me reconnect with the natural world (I get a similar sense when on a mountain or by the sea - but neither of these are quite so easily accessible for me)!

So I find it a real source of frustration that I not only struggle to take pictures in woodland, but that I can't portray even a little of the serenity and peace that I find in amongst the trees.


One theory I have as to why I find woodland photography so challenging is that I'm possibly putting too much pressure on myself to come away with an image. If woodland photography is hard, maybe I should spend some time learning the skills needed without any thought on a final image?

So, with that in mind, I ventured out with a totally different objective to usual. Instead of thinking about coming away with a shot or even recceing an area for a potential future picture, I decided to just have fun and play with my camera. 

I decided to attach my 35mm prime (50mm in a full-frame sensor) to my camera so as to take away the zoom function and to keep things simple. I raised my ISO to 1000 so I could hand-hold and set up my camera to aperture priority. I then just spent a couple of hours wondering around the forest taking pictures of anything and everything that caught my eye.

So, did come away with any images to keep? No

Am I going to post any images on Facebook, Twitter or my website? No - and that was the whole point. This shoot was for my eyes only!

But it was still worth it.........

You see, I am still very much a learner when it comes to photography and whilst I feel I have a fairly good grasp at camera settings and the technical side of photography, composition and creating a pleasing image is, for me, a continually evolving process.

So, removing the pressure of taking a "good" shot and instead focusing on just experimenting, playing with composition and just having fun can be really insightful. Not only did this shoot remind me of why I got into photography in the first place, but playing with my camera also really helps me to develop my eye for compositions and lighting.

So it was a really worthwhile experience and one I'm keen to repeat soon - I definitely don't just "play" with my camera enough! 

I'd love to hear your experiences of woodland photography and playing with your camera. Do you also find the time to play and how has this affected your photography?