Bluebell Wood in Winter (Part 1)
The deciduous woodlands here in Kent are very different from the northern forests of my childhood in Finland. With their evergreen conifers, the Finnish pine forests are light and airy, and even in winter have some greenery. And as the airiness of the forest lets a lot of light into the bottom layer, the ground (when not covered with snow) has a rich layer of plants growing: moss, ferns and berries of many kinds, such as billberries (wild blueberries) and lingonberries.
The Bluebell Wood next to our house could not be more different. Completely deciduous, it is relatively dark in the summer, with few plants at the bottom layer. The ground layer is only interesting in the spring time, when fox gloves, wild garlic, small orchids and bluebells flower. The rest of the time is just dust and mud, with occasional ferns, and a duvet of brown leaves in the autumn.
And so the woodland is at its most obviously photogenic in spring and autumn time, but in winter it becomes more austere, perhaps even a little bit grim, certainly not conventionally pretty. Yet for a photographer who is willing to look beyond the sparseness, and not look for obvious beauty, there is a lot to inspire.
After the leaves drop, the woodland is suddenly full of air and light. You can see so much further. In fact, being a small forest, you can mostly see through it, see all the fields and hills beyond. With all that air and light, you can suddenly see the structure of the forest much more clearly.
The structure is of course the trees. You can really see them now, their trunks become so prominent when there are few other details to distract you. Suddenly, I’ve noticed how many huge oak trees we have – in the summer they were perhaps too large to notice, it is almost as if they were hidden amongst all the green leaves of the smaller trees.
This winter I have been fascinated by tree trunks. I have spent endless hours of photographing them; in groups, in detail, textures and colours in different light. Photographed as a group, and without the distraction of the leaves, I love the way they form such interesting lines and patterns.
As well as being able to see the big picture, winter is a good time to really appreciate the small picture, the details you might just walk past if you are in a rush.
The small details are full of interesting colours and textures. Once there are no leaves or greenery of any kind, you become aware of how subtly beautiful all those natural neutral colours can be. The greys and rusty browns of the tree trunks and the green moss growing on them, and interesting lichen and bark on sticks on the ground.