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Magical Trees


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Magical Trees

28 Feb 2019 4:31PM   Views : 673 Unique : 422

A couple of characterful trees in a small piece of woodland lend themselves very well to enhanced lighting.
There is a small area of local woodland that I go to from time to time that has a number of old trees. A couple of old beech trees have interesting trunks which are more noticeable when the trees are without their leaves. They stand opposite each other either side of a path, as if they're guarding the path or the place the path leads to. Well, it's halfway between the small car park and the canal bridge but that doesn't really get the imagination going, does it!

I'd photographed these a little while ago and decided at some point I should return and try something different. I decided some form of supplementary lighting to give some magical or fantasy look. At this point I wasn't sure how that would look or if I'd like the results.

The first requirement was a dull day. The reason for that was bright sunlight would create lots of highlights and shadows, so the image could look confusing. Indeed, low winter sun in many situations does look attractive. But as I wanted a moody look, a sunlit background wouldn't create that. Yes I could reduce it's intensity by exposure adjustment and let the supplementary light illuminate the foreground, but it wouldn't create mystery. At least not effectively.

After arriving and setting up the camera on the tripod I took a standard shot. The result was too light so I took another using negative exposure compensation. This gave a true representation of the scene as it was, a baseline if you like.


The next stage was to use off camera flash to add some light. I'd decided to use colour filters over the flash in order to give some excitement. Plain white light would look nice but a little ordinary. I chose green to start with. Comparing the first image with this one you can see the effect, but it has the appearance of somehting like sunlight illumonatinfg a mossy tree trunk.


To reduce the effect of the ambient light I increased the negative exposure compensation to more than -2 stops. This has no effect on the flash illumination, which incidentally I'd set to give more exposure than 'correct' which I find is needed when working outside in this manner. That's because there's little or no reflective surfaces to retain and reflect the light like there would be for example in and around buildings.
Now I was ready to take a series of shots using different coloured lights. I set the camera to self timer mode, released the shutter and walked into position with the flashgun. That way I could position the light to just where I wanted it for best effect. The flash was triggered by a wireless system.


Hazards, yes. Tripping over twigs or brambles if I walked too far. Fortunately the area I used was clear so it wasn't a problem. It's an area popular with dog walkers so leaving a tripod set up while I was a few metres away could have been problematic with fast running dogs at twilight. Fortunately there were few around at this time.

Reviewing the shots on screen later was disappointing. They'd looked fine on the camera's display at the time. Ah, but I was viewing the RAW files. The camera displays what it considers is a decent jpeg using its algorithms. Once the black and white points were set and a couple of tweaks to the light tones and the contrast made I was happy with the results, much improved. That's the danger with RAW files, they may look unpromising initially but with those quick adjustments mentioned it's possible to get the best out of the capture.


I only used one light with one colour, and nothing on the immediate background. All I was after at this point was to see what effect I could produce and by then that window of dusk, which is always small at this time of year, had gone. Keep things simple has a lot going for it. Yes I could be more elaborate, but that's for another day.


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saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
2 Mar 2019 3:57PM
Very interesting to see the effects of the coloured gels on the flashes, Keith. I son't use much flash, but would like to try something different like this. I have sets of gels which came with the two flashes I have, so no excuse for not experimenting a bit!

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