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Big Lens Botany Tips

David Broadbent is an experienced commercial and editorial photographer based in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley who runs the Forest of Dean School of Photography.

Here he shares his thoughts on why autumn is such a joy for photographers and how leaf peepers can get the very best shots.

“We are lucky this area is packed with so many great and accessible photo opportunities at every turn. Choose between ancient woodland with large majestic oaks planted for Admiral Nelson himself, beech rides packed with colour, contrasting rare yew woodlands, ash forests next to tufa streams as well as the more diverse and unusual tree species,” explains David.

  • Use the light: Early morning and late afternoon light are in the warmer end of the spectrum which adds a real punch to the autumn golds, oranges and rust colours. Even on a sunny day it is worth experimenting with the white balance setting on your camera. Choose the shade or cloudy setting and watch the colours zing.
  • There’s always a storm: Take the first opportunity you get to shoot your favourite landscape and don’t put it off because each year there’s sure to be a storm or downpour to denude those golden leaves from the canopy.
  • Go wide: Choose a wide-angled lens, focus on some foreground interest and select an aperture of f9 or smaller (tripod or steady post required) for that all-important depth of field. Or, even better, shoot a series of images in portrait orientation which can later be stitched together to create a wide panorama image. Work upwards to create a ‘vertorama’.
  • Take a closer look: It’s not all about wide vistas though, pick out details in the landscape that show the season in ‘micro mode’.
  • Show some flare: Low sun through golden leaves is just made for flare. Flare is the optical effect inside your lens that makes geometric points of light and lines. Nothing screams sunshine like an image full of flare.
  • Get moving: Experiment with motion blur in your images. Take the leaf peeping drive as a passenger and shoot out of the window on a slow shutter speed.
  • Take the overview: The forest looks great from above. Whilst the overview at Symonds Yat is a world-famous sight, Tutshill has its own, looking over a bend in the River Wye and the Roman Dock.
  • Come into the light: Shoot into the light to create an impressive back lighting effect on the autumn leaves and see the pleasing “bokeh” (aesthetic quality of the blur) in your backgrounds.
  • No such thing as the perfect exposure: Throw out the “rules” of photography and really go for it. Overexpose to create cool pastels or focus on a strong bright colour source and under expose to create drama. Use the exposure compensation button on your camera to take control of the exposure that YOU want.
  • Everyone can look but few can see: Actually seeing the shot when it’s staring you in the face is a skill you can learn. Be inquisitive and a student of the light, watch how the light moves, waxes and wanes influencing your subject and your backgrounds to choose the perfect moment to fire the shutter.

Go mobile

If you use your phone or tablet to take images, here are three great tips just for you:

  1. Create two-dimensional shots by taking control of the focus. Simply touch the screen where you want to focus, and release.
  2. Alongside the focus box will be a line with an icon in the middle; touch, hold and slide up/down to increase/decrease the exposure.
  3. Take the shake out of pressing the shutter by using the top button on an iPhone or the switch on your headphones instead of the on-screen control.


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