If you go down to the woods today …


So it’s been quite a gap since my last post and after enjoying a summer off post course completion I am now getting back into my work and the weekend just passed I had an engagement shoot.  To follow in with theme of there wedding we decided to travel to Leigh Woods in Bristol for a autumnal inspired set of shots.  Baring in mind the week we had with weather last week I wasn’t expecting the weather to be up to much and was really concerned the shoot was going to be a complete washout.  In fact the day turned out to be glorious, we were blessed and photographically I was able to practice some new techniques in my repertoire.  For me this was the use of direct sunlight – my usual instinct is to place my subject away from direct sunlight and never to shoot into it but throughout the summer I have been researching the wedding market and have come to realise that this is such a popular technique that clients fall in love with so I want to add these types of shots to my portfolio and im hoping it will help me grow as an artist.


As you can see from the behind the scenes shots (thanks to J. Fort) the surrounding were picturesque.  I didn’t know what to expect as originally we wanted to try and get a variety of autumnal colours within the shots, but the type of wood this is leans itself more to just greens and brown tonal palettes, however there were some really interesting areas of the woods that created dynamic backdrops.  These included arched tree paths, rustic built wigwams and an old crofters cottage that had been open up to the elements.  The latter fit perfectly within the farmhouse style aesthetic  of the wedding that the couple will be celebrating in 2014.


So you may wonder what were the restrictions and problems that I came across during the shoot?

As shoots go there were too many issues to have to contend with.  The weather wasn’t an issue as it remained dry, however the light was quite difficult as times.  It wasn’t the fact that it was bright sunlight alone that made some shots more difficult that others it was more the way light shines down through the treetops that causes lots of shadows with fierce highlight details.  At the beginning of the shoot finding an equilibrium between these two attributes proved incredible difficult but this was more to do with how dense the forrest was at that location.  Once we more to a different clearing the light seemed to open up its creative potential.  Having said that the shots are not at a high quality ISO that I usually work in.  In reality I have been used to implementing ISO setting between 100-400 however given the darkness and lack of light some shots did have to venture up to ISO 2000.  I thought there would be a lot of issues with noise in my images but luckily if you don’t edit your images too much it actually doesn’t show too much – you can of course reduce noise luminance, detail and colour definition within the Develop Module of Lightroom which has helped in a few of the images.  Luckily the Bride and Groom to be liked the rougher less pristine look as that is the style of photography they like.

The only other occasion where I have had to extend my ISO so high was when I took shots in wells cathedral and was limited to natural light alone.  For some shots in the forrest I was using my flash, problems did arise with exposure compensation so where possible I simply used the flash under ETTL setting as a fill in only as opposed to it being the main source of light.

The only other issue that was faced was how busy the wood was.  Being that I had never been to the location before I didn’t realise that under a joint ownership for the Forestry Commission and the National Trust the woods are free to all and attracts lots of ramblers and cyclists.  In certain clearings such as where the wigwams were located there were lots of families mulling around so one had to patient in order to capture the shots I needed.


Above are some snapshots of the editing process with an insight into some of the possible final shots.  Overall it was a really fun day and the happy couple were relaxed and extremely flexible which is always a pleasure to experience as a photographer.  I am currently investigating on trend actions and presets filters available within Lightroom in order to gain images that produce that etherial effect and can confirm that the market is so over saturated with presets that the task of sifting through the higher quality settings is quite laborious.  However gaining this effect with no doubt push my shots into the highest bracket of commercial photography.


Overall it was a really fun day and the happy couple were relaxed and extremely flexible which is always a pleasure to experience as a photographer.  I am pleased to confirm that the results for the shoot were beyond my expectations and can confirm the couple loved the final pieces.