Wareham Forest - Photographing Locally



As I suggested in an earlier blog "The Intimate Landscape", this ongoing pandemic has made us all re-evaluate our photographic options, requiring many of us to consider locations much closer to home. In many ways this has proven to be a blessing as I hadn't fully appreciated just how wonderful Wareham Forest can be. It is quite an extensive area comprising heathland, ponds, conifers and a sprinkling of deciduous trees , mainly silver birch, which can look quite magnificent at any time of the year. For those of you who are keen to photograph wildlife, this forest is renowned for its Sika deer. My wife and I have got into the habit of taking a daily walk into the forest and somehow we seem to see something new and worth photographing on every occasion. I'm sure many of you will have a similar photographic asset close to home; it merely requires that you get out there and appreciate what is available.



If you are to take advantage of the best lighting conditions, I would suggest that you consider getting out early. To get to this particular part of the forest requires a walk of about 20 minutes; I tried to time it so I got there literally as the sun appeared over the horizon, which provided a truly awesome period of light. This cluster of silver birch appears quite magnificent when viewed set against the darker conifers in the background. Even when a dull day is predicted, often you will experience possibly up to 30 minutes of rich light before the sky begins to fill in. Getting up early really does offer fabulous benefits.



A good landscape photographer should be able to exploit all weather conditions, but nothing gets me out of bed more quickly than when I look out of the window and see fog, as it has the capacity to utterly transform a landscape. Mists and fog introduce into the landscape a feature known as " aerial perspective", which greatly exaggerates the tonal variation between those objects closest to the camera and those furthest away. Moreover, fog offers one of those very rare moments when you can photograph the sun; with the mist acting as a filter, the light emanating from the sun can create some wonderfully subtle pastel shades.



With countless small ponds and slow moving streams, Wareham Forest is an ideal location to exploit the reflective qualities of water. Because most of the ponds are quite shallow and partially sheltered, even when the weather is fairly breezy, the water will appear calm. In my many walks I will have passed this particular spot literally hundreds of times, and on each occasion it has appeared subtly different; essentially it is a mirror of the weather on any given day. This was photographed about 20 minutes before dawn; with a wonderful layer of frost, this charmed location appears even more exquisite.



The more frequently you visit a location, the more aware you become of pleasing detail. This cluster of reeds is to be found in the middle of the pond illustrated in image 4. My favourite lens when exploring the forest is my 100-400mm zoom because it has the capacity to get my into areas that would otherwise prove difficult. The area immediately surrounding the pond is marshy, but by using a long-angle lens, I am able to access detail without having to leave the foot-path. The pre-dawn glow in the sky has helped to radiate the reeds in the foreground.



It was quite sobering, but our beloved Wareham Forest featured in the national news two summers ago, because of a very extensive and destructive fire. From a photographic standpoint, it helps to turn adversity to your advantage. From an aesthetic standpoint, once you forget how this was achieved, the blackened silhouettes of the burnt trees look especially attractive when set against the very pale grasses. Photographed in a rich autumnal light, the contrast between the illuminated parts of the landscape with those in shadows adds to the appeal of this image. Essentially it teaches us that all aspects of the forest have a visual appeal, providing you are prepared to look for the positive.



Whilst most of the images included in this blog have been taken in autumn or winter, Wareham Forest can look quite magnificent at any time of the year. One of the great joys of regularly walking though a chosen location is that you begin to appreciate just how nature changes the landscape, almost on a weekly basis. In spring we begin to detect the renewal of growth, whilst in the summer heathland flowers are in full bloom. It is hard to ignore the joyous beauty of the changing colours of autumn, whilst the winter months introduce a pattern of weather which can often proves absolutely inspiring. My wife and I consider ourselves fortunate to have this facility on our doorstep, but recognise that there are numerous other locations dotted throughout the UK offering equally worthy photographic opportunities. Have you discovered your local location yet?


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