The Old Timer

Regrettably, I don’t “get out” enough these days with my camera; so yesterday I grabbed my kit and headed off to the New Forest for a speculative shoot at a little brook I had spied out in autumn of 2020. I was hoping for more water, but it was really drying up. Even so, there were some interesting things going on here and I took a couple of shots that I really like. 

The shot I like the most was of an ancient beech tree standing just back from a bend in the brook. It was clearly a substantial old-timer and the brook had begun to undercut the bank, exposing some of the tree’s roots. A large limb had fallen from it some years ago and lay on the forest floor, catching some of the light that its demise had left in the forest canopy. To the right a smaller tree is just in frame in the foreground and I debated with myself whether or not to leave it in the final crop. I decided to leave it in; it looked to me like a young pretender – there is a sense of motion in the way it stands… almost as if it is trying to escape the roots of the larger tree behind it that have begun to surround it. 

The whole scene speaks of the age of the forest; this scene has been here, visited by the forest ponies as a place to come and drink from the brook, for hundreds of years. The bend in the river (unseen here) is partly cut off and will eventually become an oxbow lake. Will the roots outlast the brook’s course? The fallen tree limb will, has, become home to insects, moss and fungi and will take decades to rot down. One day the great beech itself will fall and the young pretender will likely survive it. Perhaps some of the beech nuts that litter the forest floor will take root and a new generation will arise in the clearing behind. 

These things remind me of a world that operates on a totally different timescale to our busy lives. The picture captures just one fleeting moment in the long story, an intimate history, of this quiet place. Just earth and water and wood…

You can view the YouTube video about this trip here;

Technical and Compositional Details

Image taken on Nikon D750 with Nikkor 50mm f:1.8 G lens. Camera on tripod with cable release. Shot at 1/6 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 100.

Wider aperture used to separate out the background and show up the textures on the tree and its roots. The dark conditions under the canopy required the use of a lower shutter speed and a lower ISO to reduce noise in the image from low light. The very dark shadows in the area under the eroded bank could have been brought out more, but that would not have been true to the deep shade that had been left by its being undercut.

The lens is a fixed focal length – that meant “zooming with my feet” until I had the right position to frame the scene as I wanted. I set the tripod in a high position, and up on a slightly raised area, to ensure that I could exclude the brighter sky showing through the top of the canopy just out of image.

A mono preset was applied and then adapted in post-processing because the green in the image were just too distracting.

There are some fairly obvious “zones” in the image – the trunks of the trees in the foreground, the roots/river bank and the background; these are reasonably balanced and conform, closely enough, to a “rule of thirds” composition.

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