August 3, 2020

Applied Practice | Dream Theory Project | Wimbledon Pines


I wanted to photograph an isolated stand of trees in Richmond Park, but due to Covid I wasn't permitted to bicycle in the park, this would have taken more time than I had.

With luck I happened on a stand of pine while exploring Wimbledon Common and photographed it with a tripod.


I wanted a high-resolution panoramic image so I shot it in segments to image merge later. I used bracketing to make sure I didn't have overexposed highlights of the sky through the branches.

A sample of my contact sheet showing bracketing

Experiments with welder's glass

I wanted to try using a 10 stop neutral density filter to allow for longer daylight exposures. I thought extreme motion blur on small branches and leaves could lead to a more dreamlike image.

I was reluctant to purchase the necessary equipment (£200-£300) until I was sure that it was worth pursuing, so instead I bought some glass for a welder's helmet and exposed with the glass taped over my lens.

Welder's glass

Welder's glass taped to lens hood

Welder's glass is very green

It's possible to remove the green in Lightroom but the image is left with little colour range.

Moving on

There is something about the quality of these images I like, but I didn't consider this route sustainable for the entirety of this project so I decided to abandon this technique for the time being.


I found that the images I shot had focus issues. I had used an app to calculate focal length but hadn't quite understood the distances of my surroundings. I wanted the image though so I returned very early in the morning to try again.

First attempt, windy, long exposures

Returning to the location

On returning there were two elements in the scene I wanted to address, the first was a diagonal fallen branch suspended by a tree to the right of the frame and the second was a small sycamore tree obscuring some of the pines. Clearing the dead branch was straightforward, but removing the central tree was a bigger job and took up valuable time.

I'd brought my tenon saw with me for this purpose. With hindsight the benefits hardly outweighed the effort—the tree was much larger than it appeared in the images. It may have been better to have left it as it was.

There are also a few ethical and philosophical consequences that come from trying to manipulate a scene in such a way, but it was a valuable discovery process that will help my decision making in future.

Small tree and diagonal fallen branch I wanted to remove

Focus stacking

I decided to try focus stacking the image, as well as bracketing, as well as shooting multiple images for the panorama, as well as using long exposures. This elaborate process results in a huge number of images and certain issues with changing light.

As the sun was rising sometimes it threw sunlight onto the trees, other times the sun was obscured by clouds and the light softened and flattened out. The combination of shooting techniques I had chosen meant that instead of capturing a moment, each complete image was captured over several minutes.

I had initially been excited to capture the sunlight, but soon realised I preferred the softer light. The shoot took over two hours to complete.

Shooting seven portrait aspect images, overlapping
A completed panorama, second shoot day, with sunlight
Second shoot day. Soft light, less windy, much higher resolution, deeper focus and fewer extraneous elements


Photographing this forest was far more of a learning curve than I'd anticipated. I didn't need to bracket these images nearly as much as I did. There is a difficult tradeoff between long exposures to reduce digital noise and the resulting softness produced by the slight movement of the trees.

I'm reasonably satisfied with the result, at least as a way into this project, but I hope to find a subject that brings out the innate strangeness that I'm looking for more directly.

At the time of this writing I'm undecided whether to use the sunlit image or the softer one.

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