Into the woods

It’s dark outside. Dawn is an hour or so away and I’m sitting here looking across at my cat, who is looking longingly out of the window, into the gloom; he can probably see what’s out there, but I can’t. I’m heading out later to a favourite place, and although I do have some pictures in mind and will certainly take a camera, as much as anything I’m just heading out for a walk in a quiet woodland, something I’ve done quite a bit recently.

I joined an online talk the other day by a brilliant photographer, Karl Holtby. Like me, Karl is based in East Yorkshire and his highly personal work often features places I visit, including the woodland I’ll be heading to a little later. During the Q&A, aside from dealing with the many queries from other attendees about kit, settings, printers and the papers he uses (all interesting in their way, but…), he talked about the importance of knowing, and having a connection to, the places he photographs. He explained how many of those who attend his workshops are technically adept and immediately start photographing the locations he takes them to, while his preference is to absorb the area and sense the atmosphere before reaching for a camera. He also emphasised how intimate scenes are often more important to him than grand vistas, and how he rarely points his camera at the sun, to avoid it becoming a distraction; he might go out at sunrise, but it isn’t the sun he’s after.

I’m starting to feel the same way myself, and it’s that sense of intimacy that I’ve been looking for in creating the Southbelt page on my website. Southbelt is an autumn portrait of another woodland near to where I live. I’ve been there several times as the leaves have turned and fallen, and I’m looking forward to going back when winter really starts to bite. Part of the enjoyment I’ve found in visiting Southbelt has been in working with a favourite prime lens, and challenging myself to make what I can of the restrictions that creates (want to zoom in? Take a couple of steps forward!). But the real enjoyment I’ve had is just from absorbing the atmosphere of the place: listening to condensing mist dripping from the remaining leaves; hearing roe deer leap away as I approach; realising that within a few steps of entering the woodland, the wind has dropped to almost nothing at all.

I can just about make out the trees at the end of the garden now, so daylight is approaching. I’m going to pop out for an hour or two, have a wander, listen to the sounds, maybe take a picture or two.

Postscript: here’s the “picture or two” I mentioned.

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