The Balrog

Moray, Scotland.

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I have walked passed this tree on many many occasions over the years. It grows in close proximity to a footpath winding up to the top of a small hill. Forty years ago it may have been a bit shorter, a bit thinner, less vigorous maybe, but it would still I think have been a beautiful tree then as indeed it is now. I just never noticed it then. Even twenty years ago when I rekindled my interest in landscape photography I still never noticed it. So what changed to make me now be aware of its existence? An interest in the more intimate landscape and an appreciation of light. One day I looked at the light and I saw the tree.

Woods are difficult locations in which to photograph. The management of chaos of course can be a problem but contrast differences created by strong sunlight can make photography sometimes just impossible. In overcast conditions the light becomes flat as contrast differences become almost mono-tonal. This is the light that works really well when lichens and mosses form part of the subject matter and specular highlights can be be reduced. A little direct or reflected light can however sometimes be managed and it is this subtle light that can be used by the photographer to draw the attention of the viewer to the main subject of the image. It can also add depth to the overall image and so assist in creating a satisfying composition. When in the woods look at the light and not at the trees!

Now I can never walk past this tree without stopping and having a look to see what effect the light is having on it. This links really to how I like to re-visit locations again and again. The light is never the same and the effect it has on the subject and the photographer will often determine composition. I think light and composition are therefore inextricably linked and it is only when a suitable combination of subject, composition and light become available, followed by the subtle processing of the image and perhaps an interpretation by the photographer, that hopefully that successful image as seen in the mind of the photographer can be achieved.