August 10, 2020

Applied Practice | Dream Theory Project | Landscape photography, Bourne Woods

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Rather than exhaustively go through each of my subsequent landscape images in detail, I'll compile them in groups (by location and shoot day if possible) and highlight any successes, failures and lessons learned.

To recap, my goal at this stage was to shoot landscapes, buildings or other scenery in order to build my composite images.

I needed to find places that I felt resonated with the idea of the unknown places that can be found in dreams, a landscape of the imagination.


For the next step of my project I realised I had an important practical component missing—locations. By this stage I had a good idea of what I wanted to shoot:

  • Forest scenes
  • An old building, either classical (or neo-classical) but preferably medieval
  • Water, such as a pond or lake
  • Perhaps something industrial

I thought that if I were in a commercial situation I would call on the services of a location agency to help identify suitable places to photograph. Therefore collaborating with a friend who has expertise in the history of Britain and the South East seemed like a promising idea.

Working together we identified two locations near each other that might be useful. Bourne Woods, and Waverley Abbey.

Bourne Woods

Bourne Woods is a pine forest on hilly and undulating terrain, it's in West Surrey and is publically accessible. Parts of it has been used as film locations in movies such as Gladiator and Thor: The Dark World.

I wasn't sure I needed another image of pine trees, but I wasn't 100% convinced that my previous effort was an interesting enough scene. It seemed to lack something. Perhaps I needed to shoot a larger, more complex scene for the image to be more compelling.

I suspected I might go to the effort of shooting another location and then return to the original, but I pursued the Bourne Woods location anyway. If I couldn't find what I was looking for, it would still have been worthwhile to scout.

First shoot at Bourne Woods

I photographed three locations at Bourne Woods in one afternoon. Again I used focus stacking and panoramic image merging. These are the images I produced.

The first panorama I shot at Bourne Woods—rejected

The image above was the first one I shot. Things I like about it include the light among the trees and the colour but I rejected it because of the closer trees at either end, the oddly flat horizon line and the lack of depth.

The second panorama I shot at Bourne Woods

Again a painstaking process of focus stacking, bracketing and image merging, but I was pleased with the result. I felt I may have to crop the path to the right of image—I thought the path counteracted my aim for the image.

I like the stump on the left, it reminds me of the broken trees in Henri Rousseau's, 'War or cavalcade of discord'—a painting that I reference in my research for this project here.

I also like the sense of depth that the near and far trees give, and the undulating terrain.

The third panorama at Bourne Woods

I like this image a great deal but I made a critical mistake in shooting it. There is a hard tradeoff in successfully shooting this, first I wanted a reasonably low ISO, I was shooting at 200. With 200 ISO I could shoot at f8 but only with a long exposure of around a second.

I thought that with focus stacking I could use a relatively wide aperture, but crucially, I hadn't fully understood how much a pine forest moves around in the wind. Most of the trees in this image are significantly motion blurred. Perhaps I should have tried a higher ISO and a shutter speed below 1/60th.

At the time of writing I'm not sure if I can use this image as a final piece, although I would like to.


Once I got home and digitally developed these image I realised that I would need to do some tests to establish what shutter speed will freeze tree trunks, branches and leaves in the wind. If I needed to shoot another forest, I'd be better prepared.

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