A Better Technique for Photographing Deadwood

Up until now, I’ve been photographing deadwood, freehand. But after a more critical review of these photos, I’ve decided that using a tripod enables more consistent high quality photos. There are two reasons for this. First, using a tripod makes it easier to compose the scene. Looking at the live view on a tripod is much different than looking through the viewfinder while holding the camera. It’s really much easier to notice any flaws with the angle of view, or the distractions “hiding” in the periphery. Second, the technical quality of the image is better since I can use a remote shutter release, allowing me to set a low ISO, longer exposures, and higher f stops. Manual focusing is also easier since I can more precisely select the key focus point for best depth-of-field, and magnify  that portion 10x for critical focusing.

You can see my most recent work (appearing in descending order of date taken) at my on-line gallery.

Deadwood

Recently, I’ve been thinking about emphasizing form and texture in my photographs, as opposed to much of the landscape work I’ve done. This led me to consider photographing deadwood. No, I’m not referring to those non-performers in the working world. Deadwood is certainly readily

Ellison Park, Monroe County
Ellison Park, Monroe County

available. Just take a walk through the woods and you’ll see a vast array of the stuff. Most of the time we don’t pay much attention to the rotting logs and branches along our way, unless we’re looking for mushrooms, moss, fungi, or insects. But deadwood is a critical part of the ecological cycle. Although we think of deadwood as merely dead trees, deadwood provides nutrients for a range of plants and animals, as well as a new generation of trees. The last stage of organic decomposition produces new soil. The whole process is identical to what takes place in a compost pile or bin. The dead thus produce new life. As you view these photograph’s you might consider this upbeat deadwood perspective.

 Millions of tons of wood are produced every year in the forests of the world. Observation, however, tells us that the sum-total of wood upon he surface of the earth remains fairly constant from year to year and from century to century. We must, therefore, conclude that there are destructive agencies at work by which millions of tons of wood are destroyed annually.

A. H. R. Buller, preeminent mycologist, Economic Biology, 1906, 1, p. 101
Ellison Park, Monroe County
Ellison Park, Monroe County

Since light levels tends to be lower in the woods, due to foliage and shadows, supplemental flash is necessary for producing high quality photographs. I’m using a Canon Speedlight 430 EX II with a short off-camera cable so I have  control over the flash’s direction.

You can see more of my deadwood series at my online gallery. I’d appreciate receiving your comments or criticism.

For more information on wood decomposition, see Trees for Life.

Now available from the Bird House in Rochester, NY, and StephenFieldingImages.org
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Available through PayPal