While we have had record summer temperatures in the UK recently, I’ve already begun seeing early signs of autumn, which has me looking back to the fantastic colour I found at Simonside last year.
I have shared a couple of images this day before: first in my top 4 photos of 2019 and then another, Glorious autumn at Simonside. It’s still one of the best days out I’ve had with a camera in the past few years and was desperate at the time to get back again the following day to explore and photograph more. Alas, it’s hard enough for me to find one full day for photography let alone two consecutively.
“The colours in the woodland at Simonside were unreal at the time and I really wish I’d been able to go immediately back again for a couple more days’ exploring.”
The day had started with an attempt at finding Harwood Forest, falling into the trap of following Google Maps to the wrong side entirely for easy access and wasting much of my precious photo day being unproductive. I then got distracted from my woodland focus and climbed up Simonside—which was enjoyable but also a bit of a waste photographically—before eventually stumbling this woodland (although, to be fair, I spotted the block of vivid autumn colour on the trees from my high vantage up atop the Simonside hills).
All of which leaves me excited to try and catch some of the colour again this year, having now been to this woodland twice and getting a slightly better idea of the lay of the land.
The power of post-processing to convey a vision
Today’s image sat un-processed in Lightroom for a while. It was one of those images where I could tell there was potential while also just not getting the feeling from the raw file that I had on the day: of the richness of colour and closeness of the forest.
These are the images where I either did a bad job capturing the scene in camera, or the flatness of raw files gives such a (relatively) underwhelming starting point that I struggle to decide how to handle them. I tend not to go too crazy with my post-processing, aiming just to reproduce the feeling the scene evokes for me.
I rarely move a file into Photoshop for deeper edits (I bought Greg Benz’s by-all-accounts-excellent Lumenzia luminosity-masking plugin a few months ago and still haven’t even tried it) and so can tend to steer clear of raw files that look like they need such a level of modification to get back to what I saw and felt on the day.
This one nagged at me a little though, and eventually one evening while playing with another image, I came up with a collection of settings that was looking good for these deep autumn colours.
With a stronger starting point, I got enthused enough to spend some time dodging and burning to pick out the more interesting elements and hopefully lead the eye through the depth of the image a little better.
I’m happy with the result, though the big clump of grass in the foreground is a little distracting. Cropping it out would lose the lovely copper-coloured woodland trail to its side though, so it stayed in. This detail is one that needed fixing in the field with a shift of perspective, not months later in Lightroom.
Aesthetically, I prefer both this photograph and the second I previously shared (of the bright yellow leaves dotted between trees) to the lone tree I picked in my top 4 for 2019.
At the same time, I don’t think I would change my pick for that top four.
Top photos lists are always problematic, but as I watched other photographers share their top 4 images to round out the year I did enjoy the reflection point reviewing my output that year with a critical eye, as well as an eye to what I might like to change or focus on this year. I checked in on that recently.
What put the image of the tree into my top four was the change of subject matter and more intimate focus within woodland images.
I lived in London for 13 years and for much of that time in South East London, near Greenwich. I love walking round Greenwich Park and always had a vague plan to take ‘portraits’ of some of the grand old trees in the park, even in different seasons.
I never even got started that project, but it’s the kind of thing I find myself looking for more these days and the lone tree image reminded me of it.