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Dusk in the Woods

Posted by
Ian Bramham (Manchester, United Kingdom) on 10 May 2008 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Following on from my photo here I've been doing a little more experimentation with darkness and mood in my photos.

This photo is deliberately left dark but if you are viewing it in a room with direct sunlight you'll probably think it's too dark....try it again in the evening when the photo isn't competing with so much bright light and let me know what you think.

One of the most difficult decisions with this type of photo is deciding just how dark to leave it but hopefully you'll see something in this one that reminds you of walks in the woods at that point where day turns to night.


I live on the edge of the English Peak District National Park and the village is surrounded by woodland so it seemed like a natural place to start.

This photo was taken just before sunset within a short walk of our house...the trees are so dense that I had to go to the western edge of the wood before I could get the setting sun in the shot.

As you'll see from the photo, the bluebells are in full bloom at the moment - in fact the still night air was heavy with their fragrant scent. I'm in the mood for a little poetry after all that so here's an extract from a poem by Rupert Brooke about the experience of being in a wood in the evening:

"Safe in the magic of my woods
I lay, and watched the dying light.
Faint in the pale high solitudes,
And washed with rain and veiled by night,

Silver and blue and green were showing.
And the dark woods grew darker still;
And birds were hushed; and peace was growing;
And quietness crept up the hill"

NIKON D40 1/30 second F/11.0 ISO 320 28 mm (35mm equiv.)

Like what you see here and are interested in photographic composition?.....the blog section of my website now has a complete set of 5 articles covering my personal approach to the subject: Ian Bramham Photography - Blog

For purchasing high quality archival prints of any of these photos you can send me an email by clicking here or by going to my website Ian Bramham - Fine Art Photography where prices are listed in the gallery sections under each individual photo.

sherri from Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

I'm going to have to check and see if these can be purchased in the States and if they'll grow. I absolutely love them.

10 May 2008 5:37am

@sherri: Thanks Sherri.....bluebells look best when they are a lot of them together and in a woodland setting like this they are really spectacular.

hugo poon from Hong Kong

Love it... just love it! Perfect brightness or darkness - not too bright to spoil the dusk mood, not too dark to make it eerie either. Wonderful colours too... Trust your instincts my friend; yours are among the best.:-)

Have a great weekend!

10 May 2008 6:28am

@hugo poon: Thanks wasn't the easiest of photos. I used matrix metering (rather than spot meter which is what I should have used) and in order to stop the highlights in the sky from being lost I had to apply ev compensation of -5 so it gives you some idea of just how dark the woods are at that time of day.

The part of the LCD on the camera which showed the forest floor was almost completely black and I was very surprised that I was able to recover so much detail and colour from the 'Raw' file.

Margie from Auckland, New Zealand

Beautiful, it looks great on my screen.

10 May 2008 6:37am

@Margie: Thanks very much Margie...this was probably one of the most difficult photos both technically and aesthetically that I've ever attempted so I was really pleased with the way it turned out.

Observing from Chester, United Kingdom

No question of it being too dark Ian, it's perfect. You've captured the 'dusk' feeling just right, that's how it is at dusk.!

10 May 2008 7:06am

@Observing: Thanks very much...I'm really pleased that you don't find it too dark!

IanSmith from London, United Kingdom

Such a familiar scene for and Englishman, and brings back warm memories of evening stolls through the Kent countryside (near where I used to live). Your capture is very good, with an excellent composition - the setting sun is just a perfect feature to give the whole scene a magical quality.

Did you try adjusting the Hue/Saturation on the Green & Yellow channels to see how it looks with a richer green? May not work, but it may help if you wanted to add a bit more warmth. But this is just a thought, and does not intend to criticise such an excellent shot in its own right.


10 May 2008 8:15am

@IanSmith: Hi Ian!

This shot was difficult both technically and aesthetically.

On the technical side there was a huge difference in light level between the sky and the forest floor which made getting the correct exposure very difficult. Also I find it very difficult to achieve good composition in woodland settings like this....especially when there were only a few places where the sun could also be included in the frame.

As far as post processing goes I had exposed for the sky which meant the ground was almost completely black (-5ev on camera) so I was quite surprised at how much detail was hidden away in the 'Raw' file. Although it doesn't look like it, there is already a huge amount of extra colour saturation in the blue and green channels applied to this as well as lots of contrast enhancement.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

That one was just magic.

10 May 2008 8:47am

@Ana Lúcia: Thanks very much Ana!

NJ & SB Photography from Spain

Un bosque encantado, maravillosa captura.

10 May 2008 1:56pm

@NJ & SB Photography: Thanks very much!

Chris/Aperture Image from United Kingdom

Fine work Ian, this would look good as a poster.

10 May 2008 2:48pm

@Chris/Aperture Image: Thanks very much chris!

Japanalia from Yokohama, Japan

You've just managed to actually capture the evening creeping in.....a rare thing, indeed! And what with the poem......I love it!

10 May 2008 2:56pm

@Japanalia: Thanks Gabriella....I got a lot of personal pleasure from this photos as I found it difficult and challenging both technically and aesthetically.

Nataly from Santa Monica, United States

This a very beautiful photo, Ian. And your experiment worked very well. The image has a very soft and calming feel. And the lighting looks very real... I would think that in a thick forest like this one it can`t get much brighter even with the sun just above your head.

10 May 2008 3:33pm

@Nataly: Thanks Nataly...there's another one from this wood tomorrow but processed a little differently. I'm not as happy with it as I am with this one but it was still great fun to do.

Nataly from Santa Monica, United States

One more thing... Regarding the darkness I think your image "Storm warning" has much darker and more dramatic look which you handled great!

10 May 2008 3:36pm

Lorraine from Gatineau, Canada

You give substance to what I imagine would be a child's view of magic...i love this

10 May 2008 7:02pm

@Lorraine: You have the nicest way with compliments Lorraine!...I've often thought that the simplicity and directness of the way that children view things is a great goal for us to aspire to in photography.

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

this image is magic, great!

10 May 2008 9:42pm

@Stefan: Thanks very much Stefan!

MadScientist from Düsseldorf, Germany

Everything's right with this photo, Ian, it's just magic! Really great, would make a fantastic poster!

10 May 2008 10:48pm

@MadScientist: Thanks very much....I'm delighted that you like it!

Cheryl from Boerne, United States

such a pretty image from the twinkle to the blue flowers, very, very good

10 May 2008 10:50pm

@Cheryl: Thanks very much Cheryl!

amy from Rocky Mountain House, Canada

I could just walk into this picture and never look back. Fantastical. Brilliant. How are the pixels after all that work on the RAW?

11 May 2008 1:18am

@amy: Thanks Amy...I feel really proud of this particular photo. I was glad that shot it in raw rather than jpeg. The 'raw' files from the D40 have a lot of wiggle room for want of a better word :-)

GJC from Kyoto, Japan

Most photographers, I find, are too afraid of darker shots, and are absolutely petrified of black. I don't know why. Here you have superbly utilized the low light conditions to create a magical photo that really transports us into the quiet gloaming. I also like those three trees moving diagonally across the plane. Outstanding work.

11 May 2008 2:44am

@GJC: Thanks GJC!

I was so pleased that this one came out this way although I appreciate it may not be to everyone's taste!

Michael Rawluk from Prince George, Canada

Great shot. I almost expect Hansel and Gretel to come wandering through.

11 May 2008 8:59pm

@Michael Rawluk: Ha, ha...thanks Michael.....I was really pleased and pleasantly surprised with this one!

Alun Lambert from cheshire, United Kingdom

Oh yes lovely light, great image

12 May 2008 8:59am

tom from Frankfurt, Germany

I don't know which one I like better. They are both gorgeous.

12 May 2008 7:58pm

1/30 second
ISO 320
28 mm (35mm equiv.)