The Vitalizing Forest

Capturing a moody spring morning in Teutoburg Forest, Germany.

The Vitalizing Forest

Capturing a moody spring morning in Teutoburg Forest, Germany.

Teutoburger Wald, Germany.

About the Location
This image was taken in a local forest on an early morning in May. While the first months of 2022 had been very dry the day before taking this image promised the first foggy day of the year: warm weather with increasing humidity during the day and clear skies with dropping temperatures in the night. These conditions increase chances for having fog (even in the forest) the next morning. Make sure to visit the area before sunrise. With sunshine and increasing temperatures the fog usually lifts and vanishes quickly. This might be the most interesting minutes (!) for taking a photograph, so you want to make sure to be ready on location.
Teutoburg Forest nature reserve offers only few "wild & romantic" trials where you can find older and more interesting trees in a hilly landscape. Most of the area is cultivated and shaped by forest work. This demands a lot of time searching for interesting scenes and grouping of trees. Since I already knew the area I could make the most of the given conditions in a smaller patch of the forest I had planned to concentrate on before.
Thoughts on Composition
I am quite happy with the overall composition as it combines different elements which pull the viewer into the scene while offering details to explore in the frame at the same time.
The pathway in the bottom part of the image works well as a leading line pulling the viewer into the image. In my opinion this effect is increased by the uniform and repeating patterns given by the blooming wild garlic in the foreground.
The hillside as well as the branches and trunks in the top part of the image add more leading lines depending on where your eyes are drawn to first.
Going from bottom to top the frame is filled with different layers of elements placed intentionally. Starting with the pathway and hillside at the bottom, going up to the big trees filling most of the frame and being the main characters in the image, to more trees filling the gaps in between and standing in the background. The fog fading those elements really creates separation and adds even more depth.
The illuminated tree trunks as well as the backlit foliage help to transport the fresh and vitalizing I had experienced while walking through the forest.
I had to tweak this composition for quite some time to align all elements properly. Moving a few centimeters front to back or left to right changes the perspective and arrangement of elements quite a lot. Especially when you have a woodland scene with trees in different distances. This might be challenging some times, but also gives you the opportunity to find different views on the same scene and to maybe come away with something unique.

Yellow: Leading lines
Pink: Highlighted Details
Blue: Elements creating Depth 1-2-3-4

Tipps on finding compositions in the forest
Focal length: I often prefer to move back and use a longer focal length. On the one hand you will have less divergent lines what can be really irritating in woodland scenes in my opinion. On the other hand by zooming in it comes more naturally to focus on the relevant elements in the frame while excluding distractions and "cleaning up" the edges. 
New perspectives: When you are doing a circular walk or hike make sure to turn around regularly and take your time to have a look in other directions. Or go the same route one way and the other way around the other day if possible. If you repeat this through the seasons and different times of day you may find some new and fresh perspectives even in a well-known area.
Processing
The final image is a focus-stack from two exposures: The first exposure for the very foreground. The second exposure including the trees and background.
With a focal length of 35mm it does not require too much effort to get sharp images from front two back. Still with forest scenes including different layers of trees I like to take multiple shots focusing on different key elements in the frame. While I always check focus on the back of the camera I usually decide on the computer in 100% resolution which exposures to use for the final process. From experience In most cases 2-3 exposures will be enough to get an overall sharp image including all details (at f/8). From an artistic point of view in a foggy forest you may also decide to leave elements of the image out of focus intentionally.
I used a polarizing filter to eliminate glare on the leaves adding contrast and lusher greenery. So for the final image I decreased saturation and tried to add a more diffusion again by reducing overall clarity and add a warm glow in the top-left with a local mask.
Camera Settings
Camera: Nikon Z6
Lens: Nikkor 24-120 f/4
Focal length: 35mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter: 1/10s + ND filter
ISO: 100
Taken on tripod

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