Fairy Forest


Mossy Liana. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 250mm, 1/6 sec, f/8, ISO 64.

As mentioned in last week’s post, we visited Fairy Lake twice while on Vancouver Island. After the first visit, we spent a couple hours exploring an area of forest that was adjacent to the lake. It was a small recreation area with a few campgrounds (that were closed, probably due to the season) and a dirt road loop. The result was that there were a lot more open areas than in the pure forest areas we visited later in the trip. This made maneuvering quite a bit easier, but the standard forest-photography challenges of working with busy scenes and contrasty light were still there.

In general, I tried to isolate smaller scenes in my compositions, such as the image above. It has a pretty simple composition, some interesting texture in the backlit moss, and just enough detail in the out-of-focus background to provide context. Using the longer zoom gives lots of options for finding little compositions like this. On the one hand, these tight little views are easier to work with because you can pick and choose your lighting, but on the other hand there are infinite possibilities from every place you stand combined with infinite places to stand—you have to be a little persistent.

Adam and Alister provided some post-processing examples over the course of our workshop, so I decided to try out a few approaches I don’t usually do. The image above is processed in what I consider a relatively normal manner (at least for me): it has a fair amount of contrast but it is not excessive in either the highlights or the shadows. For this next image I went for a brighter feel with little bit of a hazy atmosphere. I borrowed a few of Adam’s techniques to try to give the image a feeling of depth, too:

Mossy Glare. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D at 1/15 sec, f/8, ISO 64.

For this next image, I went in the other direction. I was going to say this image was more dark and moody, but it is more scary than moody. Considering that the previous picture and this one were separated by about 50 feet and 15 minutes, they have very different looks.

Mossy Brood. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 120mm, 1/60 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

As I write this now, it occurs to me that I should really try processing all three of the above images in all three manners—for lack of better terms I will call them normal, light, and dark—just to compare the results. Perhaps at the end of this series I will do that with a couple images and share the results. If you would like that, let me know in the comments.

Moving on to less contrasty scenes, here is an image of various plants growing around massive moss-covered roots. There are quite a few things I like about this image: the color palette is narrow with bright green leaves contrasting with the yellow-green moss and not much else in the way of color; great textures everywhere; the contrast between the large pointy leaves and the smaller rounded ones; the roots converge towards the back of the frame giving a feeling of depth; and the deep shadow between those roots looks like a the entrance to a somewhat mysterious cave. I think this would make a nice large print.

Rooted. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 17mm, 1/45 sec, f/11, ISO 500.

These last two images are of individual flowers in very different light. The first is a salmonberry flower that is backlit by very soft light that emphasizes the veins in the petals. I also like the sheen on some of the leaves from the reflected sky and the soft background. The long zoom focuses close enough that it works very well for these sorts of isolating shots of small things.

Salmonberry. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm, 1/15 sec, f/11, ISO 500.

The cool, soft, and peaceful-feeling light of the preceding image is very different than the warmer direct light on this pink trillium. The whole image—particularly evident in the green leaves—is clearly leaning towards yellow while the preceding image is leaning towards blue. I like the fact that this light is direct, but not overly harsh; the direct light accentuates the details and makes nice crisp shadows but those shadows are not really deep. A nice little detail is how some of the holes in the flower petal show up in the shadow. The complementary pinks and greens are nice, too. Finally, I like the way the yellowish areas around the holes in the petals—presumably caused by some insects—echoes the yellow of the stamens.

Pink Trillium. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 110mm, 1/1500 sec, f/13, ISO 1600.

On a purely technological note, I am very happy with how this image looks even at ISO 1600. I didn’t even resort to any fancy noise reduction. I am pretty sure that I resorted to this high ISO because I wanted a lot of depth of field (hence the f/13 aperture) and the flower was moving around in the breeze (hence the 1/1500 sec shutter speed).

Thanks for reading this week’s installment. I will have more forest images from Vancouver Island before this series is done, but I have some very different images in mind to share next week. That’s all I’ll say for now.

A few quick website notes. First, I have fixed the search feature. If you have tried using this in the past, it would just report every blog post regardless of what you searched for. Now it works. It searches keywords and text, so if there is something you want to find from the past, it’s a lot easier now. Second, I have now added a Nazaré 2023 series page, so if you want to see all of those posts, you can now get to them under the series menu at the top of the page. Finally, for those of you that kindly make comments, I always reply to every comment, usually within a day, but the system apparently does not actually email notifications of my response like it says it will. Much like the search feature, I will eventually get to the bottom of it and fix it. In the meantime, please check back on the previous post if you want to see my response.

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4 responses to “Fairy Forest”

    • Thank you, Aunt! There are a LOT of beautiful trees on Vancouver Island. It’s just tricky to photograph them well. A learning experience, to be sure!

  1. Having just returned from Yorkshire (Light and Land tour led by Charlie Waite), I am heavily involved at the moment in image processing, and so the comparison you mention could be illuminating.

    I especially like the image you say could make a good print: delicate leaves, a huge root or two; depth.

    • I’m jealous of your Yorkshire trip with Charlie! I look forward to seeing the fruits of your post-processing labors!

      I will have to add Rooted to the backlog of prints to order, then. I have a hard enough time committing to images to include in a book, let alone for the wall (which are both fewer in number and a lot more expensive to produce!).