On Wednesday 3 May Paul Mitchell FRPS Zoomed in from East Dorset with his “Woodland Ways” talk.

Paul is an award-winning professional landscape photographer and specialist book designer.  His talk centred on his photographic speciality – woodland photography.

Paul has been interested in photography since his school days.  He has a professional background in graphic design.  And he chairs the RPS Landscape Distinctions panel as well as serving on the Visual Art and PhotoBook panels.  More about him, his work, and his awards can be found at https://www.paulmitchellphotography.co.uk/  He is also on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Woodlands are where Paul “feels most at home”.  His talk was divided into two parts.

In the first part, he talked about his influences.  These include artists such as JMW Turner, Paul Sandby, and Albert Bierstadt  And they include photographers such as Peter Dombrovskis, Shinzo Maeda, and Christopher Burkett.

Paul also gave us a quick overview of his kit.  He has now “gone mirrorless” with a Nikon Z7 (which is full frame).  He regards a tripod as essential as light levels are usually low under the leaf canopy.  And his favourite lens is a 70-200mm which he often uses at 135mm.  This allows him to “reach into the woodland”.  He also has some filters, including a polariser (to be used with caution), and a plastic “composition frame”.

He is dabbling with infrared photography and has a converted Fuji X-T2 which he finds especially good in harsh light.

Paul visits woodlands throughout the year and he outlined his photographic aims when out in the woods and described some of the techniques he uses to achieve his images.

He is looking for texture and light and “reaching into the woodland” is a key technique.  This enables him to avoid the capture of largely uninteresting skies, and other distractions, that often comes from using a wide-angle lens.  A longer lens allows compression that keeps the foreground in focus yet brings the background forward a bit.  Shallow Depth of Field can add depth.

He generally sets his White Balance to “Cloudy” to warm up his images (as “Auto gives a colder impression of a subject).

Paul aims to get his images “right in camera” and does relatively little post-processing.  But, in the second part of his talk, he did live demonstrations of his quick and simple post-production work in Lightroom and Photoshop.  He showed us some easy techniques he uses to subtly develop key elements of an image and create the overall “look” of his pictures.

Interestingly, he likes to keep landscape-oriented images in their original 3:2 aspect ratio but crops portrait-oriented images to 4:3.

Apart from such cropping, his subtle changes include adjusting White Balance to get the desired degree of warmth, adjusting saturation and luminance to get the colours just right, using “minus” Dehaze and/or “minus” Texture to soften and make a slightly dreamy effect.  He also uses both Radial and Linear Gradients to focus light where he wants it and often adds modest vignettes.  And, having been brought up on darkroom processing, he also likes to do some delicate dodging and burning.

Paul’s fascinating presentation was lavishly illustrated with his excellent woodland images made throughout all four seasons of the year.  He clearly relishes the changing of the seasons and the consequent changing of light and weather conditions.  There were wonderful, often quite intimate, pictures from various woodlands including Burnham Beeches, Savernake Forest, Micheldever, Moores Valley, and the New Forest.

This hugely enjoyable presentation should give everyone plenty of ideas and inspiration for improving their own woodland photography.

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