Photoessay: Details of a forest

_8B19899 copy
Explosion

Perhaps this set should have been called ‘seeing the wood for the trees’ – often in a situation where there is so much going on, it’s not easy to pick out and compose for individual details. There’s a sort of cognitive deception going on – there appears to be a lot of areas of interest, but in reality you’ve got to be very careful because it’s really the juxtaposition and perceived density that makes the scene interesting – without the context, you don’t know it’s one tree of many, or that the level of detail continues on to increasingly smaller scales, or that a particular rock formation is out of place. A good rule of thumb is that the detail of interest must be markedly different from the surrounding areas in order to stand out and hold audience attention. That of course means including the surrounding areas…

Today’s photoessay is an attempt at doing just that: perhaps a further rethink is required: ‘relativity’ might be closer to the mark. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45 PCEs, the Zeiss Otus 85, and the Voigtlander 180 APO-Lanthar and post processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

_8B19751 copy
Polarity

_8B20074 copy
Untitled

_8B19398 copy
Inverse cross section

_8B19376 copy
Stark

_8B19626 copy
Transient and permanent

_8B19902 copy
Right

_8B19904 copy
Left

_8B19393 copy
Skeletons of winter

_8B19593 copy
Tapestry

_8B19725 copy
For next time

_8B19012 copy
The line

__________________

Be inspired to take your photography further: Masterclass Chicago (27 Sep-2 Oct) and Masterclass Tokyo (9-14 Nov) now open for booking!

__________________

Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

__________________

Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. I’ve been photographing a lot in forests lately and this post is exactly what I was looking for (both literally and figuratively). Thanks a lot Ming!

  2. Hi Ming,

    May i start by saying that i love (most of) your work, i’ve seen here .. Will you publish my hopefully constructive critics of this set, where i select one critique per image – the one thing which bugs me most, EVEN if i like the image – the ones absent form the list i just like :

    1. The sun 😉 want it absent ..
    2. Polarity : The skies .. Somewhat prefer strongly late light blue ..
    3. Untitled. The lack of 3D (for me)
    5. Stark. B&W is the wrong render for this one
    6. Transient and permanent. Overexposed by a stop for what it is
    7. Right. The inevitable feel of digital .. This should have been a Kodachrome 64 or E100GX or even a Velvia 50 “red” instead
    8. Left. as 7 ..
    9. Skeletons of winter. Should not have been here at all ..
    10. Tapestry. As 5 above ..
    12. The line. Somehitng not right with the contrast and green hue / tint in this one.

    Now I’m all under a flame proof cover, and not even there just in case 😉

    Take care,
    regards,
    Ilko

    • Each to his own. Looking at your site I’d suggest your monitor is off because everything seems underexposed by two stops and blocked up in the shadows, but hey – we really need prints to see what the final intent is 😉

  3. some very cool images here, very crisp and nicely executed!
    on a technical level it brings up an issue in my mind that seems to run through all kinds of shooting:
    specifically finding that sweet spot where distance to nearest subject, format size, focal length, sharpest aperture of a given lens vs diffraction, and achieving desired depth of field all coincide (sharpening in post obviously also contributing to this “pretty much everything extremely sharp” look).
    it also makes one consider the question of depth of field in “non portrait photography”. the default impulse seems to be trying to get everything as sharp as possible. the other extreme would be somebody like the guy with the camera made out of a truck, the massive format resulting in quite shallow depth of field even in landscape shots:

    i think of it almost as “landscape AS portrait” in a way.
    either way…keep it up!

    • Thanks. It’s definitely something that now becomes a serious consideration as both resolution increases and we go for a different (i.e. tighter than usual) perspective. I don’t think shallow DOF is bad necessarily – when we’re focused in on something our eyes are also not consciously taking in all detail anyway, which I would imagine is more closely replicated by selective focus than hyperfocal.

      • it can almost seem paradoxical. we think of long lenses as having tighter field of view but shallower depth of field at a given distance to closest subject at a given f stop. however it’s a subject i’ve been pondering, questioning whether “all sharp” is always the answer, and if it isn’t then what are interesting and effective ways to exploit various depths of field on a given subject, etc, treating a piece of landscape, architecture etc as one might a face in a portrait, letting the remainder of the image if not go “completely bokeh”, then at least distinctly less sharp, rather than the usual goal of super sharp all over so you can roam around the entire frame taking in all the details edge to edge. it is a bit mind blowing to consider the image above IS the size of the “camera sensor” with no enlargement (and with the resultant minimal depth of field).
        keep on…

  4. Gary Morris says:

    I love photographing trees… I’ve done a series on just one tree in all four seasons. These are wonderful… superb craftsmanship!

  5. One problem I’ve been having (or at least, I thought I’ve been having) when shooting foliage against the sky is getting the sky’s blue colour as a halo around the small twigs and leaves. However, I notice that your pictures also exhibit this (e.g. Polarity and For Next Time)… so I’m assuming either they aren’t actually an issue, or just too minor to bother with?

    • That halo you’re seeing at this size is because of flickr resizing. It isn’t there in the actual full size image. However, it can be caused by sharpening with too large a radius…

      • Hmm ok, that makes sense. I have also found out that I have to be very careful with Clarity (or any other detail-enhancing tools/techniques) as they will also bring out the effect more in such shots.

  6. Ming, you encapsulate very well what I struggle with as I prowl my local woods. Context. Helpful as always, and I will be better armed for my next trek among the trees. 🙂

  7. I must say, I am continually impressed with the manner you create images that appear to have medium format- and even large format-esque sharpness—a credit to adapting a perfectionistic approach to your craft! I call you “Sir Ming” as a tribute to your master craftman-ship. You certainly have raised my hopes with what can be done with small format camera bodies & lenses and a thoughtful & careful approach to one’s craft.

  8. Thanks again Ming taking us back to those mostly cold and windy days.
    A great great photographic essay about a small piece of Mother Nature.
    Knowing how fantastic a super print renders the real thing, it is unfortunate the images here are in such a low resolution and compressed, even showing bigger files wouldn’t help much either. Photos are to be printed to be enjoyed the most 🙂

  9. Wonderful images and explanation. Makes a lot of sense.

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: