As Winter approaches and the last of the colour is disappearing from falling leaves it's time to look for new subjects and silver birch trees won't disappoint. As the landscape becomes a drab colour, the silver birch takes on a new life, living up to its metallic name. Here we provide a few tips to taking better shots of these brightly coloured trees.
Silver birch trees have relatively slender trunks and tend to grow quite tightly packed in woods. A wide angle lens 28-35mm is all you need to capture environmental scenic shots. While a macro lens or lens with good close focus capability will be useful for focusing in on the diamond shaped pattern on the tree's white bark.
A tripod can be useful, especially on dull days to help you get a steady shot, but also to ensure the shot is lined up correctly as you can't rely on upright trunks with silver birch. Use a tripod with a spirit level or invest in a hot shoe mounted bubble.
You could consider using flash to add some highlights to the bark, while underexposing the background slightly which would make the trees stand out more.
Early Or Late October?
Early October, there should still be leaves on the trees. Shots into the low light sun can provide interesting and colourful backlit shots. Watch out for flare - position the sun so it's just out of frame and use your hand to shield the lens.When the leaves have freshly dropped (late October) try to photograph them close up for patterns.
Look For Fungi
Silver birch tend to attract various types of fungi so a closer lens is useful. Shoot from a low or high angle to get a profile of the fungi. Also try shooting from overhead of low growing specimens as the caps are often striped and provide good pattern and texture close ups.
Focus close on individual areas of bark to build up a collection of textures for background montages. Also consider textures that can be printed as triptychs - three photos framed in panels side by side
When shooting from a distance use a longer lens to compress perspective and gibe a stacking effect. Look for a tree in the foreground that has an interesting shape and make that the main focus of the shot. Then using a wide aperture throw the others subtly out of focus to make the front tree stand out three dimensionally.
Take care not to over expose as Silver Birch bark is usually much brighter than its surrounds and can easily be burnt out if the camera metres for the background. Move up close and take a reading of the bark and then over expose by a half to one stop to prevent the bark looking grey.
Black & White
As these trees are more or less monochromatic you could convert your colour photo to black & white and increase contrast to make a very dramatic mono shot. Most cameras, such as the Olympus OM-D EM1
, have art filters or processing that can be applied in camera to produce black & white shots. There is the option to convert coloured shots to black & white during post production, too. Why not try sepia toning your shot digitally to give a variation on the theme.
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