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Gnarly Paperbarks

Posted by
Darkelf Photography (Perth, Australia) on 18 February 2022 in Plant & Nature.


I took this photo in 2020 at one of the local wetland reserves in my home town of Perth. We decided to for a little bush walk to a new location and it was also one of my first opportunities to test out a new camera and lens combination which I acquired at the time. We did not expect much else other than a pleasant stroll through some wetlands and woods. However, we found this amazing spot and I was able to put the new camera to some good use.

This spot is called The Spectacles and is located in the southern parts of Perth. It is actually right next to a busy highway but you would not have known about it as it was very quiet when we walked around the lake. We stumbled upon this gnarly paperbark forest almost right at the start of our walk. Immediately I loved the strange shapes and dark forms of these native swamp paperback trees and green moss covering the murky waters of the wetland.

The light was still a little too harsh in the early afternoon so we decided to stop there again at the end of the walk. The light closer to the evening was a little softer and easier to manage. I did like the contrast and highlights it added to the scene but I was shooting hand held single frames and I did not want the highlights to be completely blown out. This was not a planned photo outing but I did want to test out the new gear and that included in body image stabilisation, which I can say worked very well indeed, even as I dropped down the shutter speed to 0.5 second and lower. Tripods are very handy for photography but they are not always critical to success. While at the start of my photographic journey, I would not be confident of taking hand held photos in low light, the advancement in technology makes it a much better option these days, especially when you stumble upon the unexpected.

Working on the composition in this busy and chaotic scenery was a real challenge. I kept thinking all the time on how to create some order out of madness while still retaining some of that madness in the image as it added to the overall mood. When I saw this in my viewfinder, I liked it instantly. I liked the alignment of the trees and how they formed a kind of natural path through the wetlands from the lower right to the brighter midground and background of the scene. I hope this composition will allow you to work your way through the scene as I did when taking the photo and take in all the gnarly trees along the way.

Post processing involved mostly contrast and tonal adjustments with addition of a lot of dodging and burning to bring out depth and dimension in the landscape. Helping the trees to be more three dimensional allowed for their shapes and textures to come through vividly and enhanced the strangeness and almost creepy feel present here. I mentioned that it was rather quiet and that also increased the eerie feeling in the air.

Sometimes it is great just to go out somewhere without much expectation and planning and to find an incredible scenery like this one. It also goes to show that you do not always need a tonne of gear with you to take some (hopefully) decent images.

Canon EOS R5 1/40 second F/8.0 ISO 200 24 mm

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