Trees are one of the most majestic living things on our planet; capable of growing centuries old, these silent sentinels stand in one spot and watch the ages go by, capturing their grandeur is something that every nature photographer should know how to do. There are several things that one must keep in mind when capturing a tree’s photo, in order to capture them in all their glory, you need to have a wide-angle lens and you need to know how you are going to use it.
Envisioning Your Shot
The first step to taking the perfect photograph is to know what you want to capture in the photo. When it comes to taking majestic pictures of trees, there are a lot of examples that one can look at in order to figure out what they want their shot to look like. The Lord of The Rings trilogy is one of the best movies to go to when looking for tree shot ideas, the movie is abundant with forest areas and valley brimming with trees. Since the movie itself is set in a fantasy land, the trees visible in every scene are captured in a manner that makes them look incredibly grand and timeless.
Apart from the movie, you can also find great examples and ideas for tree shots in video game artwork and more, one thing that you might notice when going through photographs of trees is that in order to get that infinitely timeless and majestic feel, almost every shot is taken from a low angle.
Finding The Right Place
Once you have figured out what you want to do to make your tree shots as majestic as possible, the next step is to find a spot where you can feel the atmosphere that you want to catch, unfortunately not all of us live near to or in the middle of old forests and jungles. You should keep in mind the lighting, the shape of the tree’s branches and the background as well, the denser the tree canopy and the number of trees in the area, the more you will be able to make your photos better.
Beech trees are a great subject for practicing your tree shots on, their natural shape brings about a creepy and ominous look in them, old and towering oak trees and silver birches also look great, however you should not just restrict yourself to these trees, any tree that has an old look to it should work fine.
Search The Web For Spectacular Trees
Thanks to modern development and excessive deforestation, it is becoming harder and harder to find trees that have that centuries-old look to them, if you are having a hard time finding huge trees then it is not your fault. Fortunately, we can pretty much find anything on the internet, this includes pictures and locations of trees that are picture worthy. You can find an interactive map that pinpoints the locations of some of the best-looking trees in the world at Monumental Trees; a website that is dedicated to recognizing the everlasting beauty of nature. You can also find details about every tree that is listed on this website.
Lighting is what makes or breaks the atmosphere in any shot. When it comes to capturing tree shots you are going to want to make the most out of the lighting in the area so that your picture becomes atmospherically rich. The best time to take tree photos is early in the morning, right when the sun begins to rise; at this time, the sun’s rays penetrate the foliage at just the right angle and reflect all the moisture in the area, creating a misty effect and (if you are lucky enough) god rays, also known as crepuscular rays.
A combination of mist in the air and god rays brings an incredibly ethereal touch to your photos, instantly transforming and augmenting the atmosphere of the shot that you are capturing.
Getting The Right Angle
To make the most out of the lighting and to signify the size of the tree that you are going to capture, you need to really get in close to the tree and get as low as possible, think of it as taking a picture from a mouse’s perspective. You need to keep in mind two things when getting your angle ready; the foreground of your picture should peak the viewer’s interest and the background should be brighter.
A helpful tip for better angling would be to get so close to the tree that you will have a hard time focusing on the ground foliage, this will make the ground plants look slightly blurry, allowing them to add to the picture’s atmosphere without taking attention away from the tree.
Setting Up Your Camera
It goes without saying that you are going to have your camera set to manual mode to get the shot that you want, you should start by setting your camera’s focus to be as sharp as possible, this can be done by setting your aperture to f/22 and point your wide-angle lens in a way that the subject comes in a third of your frame. Keep in mind that with your aperture set to f/22, you are going to have to deal with diffraction which will reduce the sharpness of your image, the best way to deal with this problem is to make use of focus stacking as well.
If you are going to use aperture priority mode then you are going to want to set your aperture to f/6.3 and then manually set your focus ring to the minimum focusing distance, now take a look at your exposure amount, keeping in mind that it should not be too bright. A darker image will mean more atmosphere, if you are trying to take a picture on a windy day then you can set your ISO to a higher number in order to capture swaying leaves better.
Also, remember that these settings are not going to be easy to set, take your time and twiddle with your camera till you find the perfect combination, every time you set your exposure you are going to want to rotate your focus ring a bit further and then repeat everything again. The number of times you are going to have to do this will depend on the focal length of your camera.
Reviewing Your Shots
Unless you have a camera with a tilting screen, you are going to find reviewing your photos to be quite painstaking, the best you can do is take multiple shots and then review them at once, the more you will practice the better you will become at getting better photos based on estimates and guesswork.
Overall, in order to master tree photography that captures trees in a majestic and ethereal manner, you need to have a wide-angle lens, other lenses can work as well but a wide-angle lens produces better results.
You will also need to get in as close as possible to get the right feeling, however, the closer you get to a subject the harder it becomes to get the right amount of focus and exposure. Through practice, you will be able to develop a “feel” for capturing photos at odd angles such as these.
Also, timing is key if you want to have the lighting on your side, trees look their best right when the sun rises.
Having a camera with a tilting screen will help, and if you are having a hard time finding the right place to capture your photos, go online for help, you are bound to find a good looking tree or two with the help of websites such as Monumental Trees.