I have to admit, I do find photographing woodland difficult. Whilst I love walking in the woods, I find the complexity of woodland hard to translate into images. Any more than three or four well separated trees and I’m flummoxed, so it was a revelation when we happened on Strensall Common in the winter of 2016/17. Suddenly we had an area of well-spaced, delicate birch trees and nice tidy foregrounds. Add in a dash of mist to separate the trees from the background and we had all the elements we craved to give us the simplicity we hankered for.
We loved the delicacy of the fine branches and the frosted grasses in the foreground made for lovely elegant details. However, come the winter of 2017/18 I wanted to take the images a step further. The delicate foregrounds were very nice, but I had an idea to incorporate a bit of stronger detail in the image and Strensall wasn’t giving me that detail. Fortunately, last winter dragged on, so we were in our element. We’ve visited the trees at Cawthorne many times over the last 10 years or so and its been a very productive location for us. The ever-changing conditions offering us a whole range possibilities, so when the late season snow fell, we knew where to go.
Our first visit saw us exploring the outer reaches of the Cawthorne woods and there on the hill was the perfect pear-shaped tree, just crying out to be photographed. The next problem was to find some foreground interest. I found the remains of some thistles sticking out of the snow and tried to compose an image, but it wasn’t the simple image I was looking for, it was too scruffy, so I decided to go back the following day and have another go.
It was snowing hard that day and whilst I did find the grasses I was looking for, the horizontal snow meant I couldn’t keep my lens dry long enough to make an image so I was going to have to come back yet again another day. We were busy on the morning of the third day and the weather was due to clear in the afternoon, so I was keen to get out straight after lunch. I needed a grey, overcast sky for the image I had in mind and the sky was clearing rapidly, so I had to work fast. I found my patch of grasses, then being careful not to trample in the snow, I set up and just managed to capture the tree before the overcast sky gave way to a sunny blue sky. Finally, I had the image I’d visualised all along, so I was able to go home happy.