We’ve had some pretty variable weather so far this winter, with it being unseasonably warm at times but also days with sustained heavy frosts.
Unfortunately for most of the latter days I’ve either been working, unwell or had other commitments, so I haven’t really been able to make the most of it, especially in comparison to some of the stunning images shared across social media recently.
On Sunday I did manage to get a couple of hours in the morning and decided to head back to Sherwood Forest, a place I’ve visited time and time again. While sometimes it can feel like you’ve done an area to death, I also believe that there’s always something new to take from a location. There’s a constant process of change in these environments, whether it’s the obvious seasonal changes that bring differing weather conditions, longer term changes such as new growth or old trees falling, or change in the way we approach our own photography.
The large heath at Budby South is one of my favourite areas of Sherwood. A stunning swathe of purple heather at the right time of year, also dotted with characterful glades of silver birch. It always seems to have a slightly different climate, often being a few degrees colder than the surround landscape and as such attracting frost and morning mists.
On this occasion I headed for a slightly different part of the heath that I hadn’t spent much time in previously. I knew there was a distinctive scots pine there which I’d previously photographed fairly unsuccessfully back in 2019 (see previously blog post Sherwood Borderline) and I thought that could work much better in these frosty conditions.
In the previous photograph I’d tried to include a broken silver birch on the right of the composition, but that left me with a big gorse bush taking focus in the bottom left. This time I moved round much further to the left to get a different angle on the scene, and after some tweaking managed to balance the image in a way I was happy with, mirroring the left hand branch with the tree line, whilst just getting some separation to the right, and using two larger silver birch to lead in.
Having got my first shot in the bag it was time to move on to the aimless bumble around the heath looking out for smaller details that are generally a bit more in keeping with my current style.
My next photo was a much simpler composition, but utilising the bright sun that had started to rise above the tree line. This was quickly burning off frost in places while also providing fantastic contrast, on the sides of the branches but also between areas of cold and warm tones.
From here it was on to a small frozen pond, I’d not noticed this on previous walks, there had been a lot of rain recently but it also seemed like a reasonable area of water so I expect it is often there. It seemed fairly solid with ice but I was trying to be cautious, certainly not deep water but I really didn’t want cold wet feet, and it was a matter of balancing on small clumps of ground to get the images I wanted.
That early light was catching these sticks caught in the ice and there were streams of frozen bubbles under the surface which added a fantastic texture.
At this point I actually thought I was about done for the morning, but as I was walking back up the track the leads out of the heath I was taken by an area past a fence to the right that seemed to be absolutely dripping with frost. I fitted my longer lens and spent a happy 15 minutes picking out some specific trees and details that were catching my eye.
On this next one again it was the balance of warm and cold that really spoke to me, with the narrow strip of frost free bracken at the base of the trees, and the morning Sun now catching more of the trunks. While this is probably a messier and less obvious composition than some of the others, I like trying to find scenes that are more about texture and detail rather than having a more traditional subject.
The next two were shot at the long end of my 50-140mm, knowing I’d still have to crop in slightly. Interestingly Mike Prince wrote a great blog recently on the subject of cropping, following some debate on Twitter about whether it showed a lack of field craft. I strongly opposed that sentiment and Mike’s blog captured most of the reasons why.
In this case there was a fence in the way, but I also wanted the compression of shooting from a distance to flatten the perspective and fill the frame with frosty branches, something that doesn’t really happen if you move closer to the subject.
The first one really stood out as the light briefly caught a few lone branches towards the front, lighting them up against a darker and colder background. This effect was fairly fleeting and a matter of being in the right place at the right time. This is part of the reason that I tend to favour walking around with the camera handheld, being responsive to the changing environment. I’m always more excited to see what might happen round the next corner rather than waiting endlessly at a single composition hoping the light will come good at some point.
Overall one of my favourite and most productive morning’s with the camera in a long time, and a good start to 2023 after a pretty slow previous year for my photography. While I doubt I will be significantly changing pace this year I’m trying to focus on making the most of the opportunities I do get and prioritising quality over quantity. Hopefully this is a success in that regard.