The best analogy for photographing well-photographed locations is to make covers of famous pieces of music. Just like a musician practices his guitar skills with “Nothing Else Matters” and makes his own version, a landscape photographer might do the same at Skogafoss in Iceland or Mesa Arch in Utah. When you are done practicing, or made enough covers of the same location, you might want to make your own original pieces.
By spending a good amount of time in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, I have come to appreciate my “boring backyard” in Denmark even more. Do not get me wrong, Iceland is incredible and so is the Faroe Islands, but what they both lack are trees and for me the feeling of “home”. I did not grow up with epic cliffs, black sand beaches, and seascapes that makes your jaw drop. I grew up in the forests around the town Silkeborg in Denmark. If you do not know Silkeborg, I do not blame you. Denmark is not known for landscape photography, but by traveling all around the world I have started to notice what makes Denmark special compared to Iceland and the Faroes. Ironically, I could not see the forest for the trees.
It were several different conditions that had to come together for me to appreciate my backyard. A backyard consisting mainly of forests and farmland. I of course cannot go out and photograph whatever I see during any conditions. The elements for a great photo still needs to be met. Interesting focal point, composition, light, atmosphere etc. All stuff I have covered extensively on my YouTube.
The hardest part was to find the “interesting focal point”. Finding the extraordinary in what I perceive to be completely ordinary is really, really hard. It requires a change of mind. When I take a photo there has to be something in that photo that attracts me. Something relatable. If the trees I see are “just another tree”, I perceive it as boring and will likely not bother to photograph it. Finding the few and far between spots that makes for something extraordinary in the ordinary requires both some legwork but also an understanding of one self. What is it I am attracted to and what is it I want to show with my photos?
My main driving force for traveling to Iceland, The Faroe Islands, USA, UK, and the Alps has been the extraordinary landscapes I related to through my interest for fantasy movies and computer games. All the places I have seen and imagined through different kinds of media were places I wanted to go myself and “create” through my photos. My vision was to photograph and create those extraordinary landscapes and I have not cared whether these places have been “over-photographed”. That being said, I have greatly appreciated to find and photograph something original on my travels. I wanted to get away from the mundane, from the "normal" and photograph the extraordinary.
With all this in mind, I started to explore the areas close to my home by foot and the areas further away via Google. What really attracts me in woodland photography are those gnarly oak forests and trees. They have so much history in them and they stimulate my imagination. I simply searched Google for oak forests in Denmark and an entire list came up. Some of these forests are only half an hour from where I live – and I did not even know about them! I went to explore several of them and found one with a lot of potential. The next thing was to wait for the conditions I wanted. Those conditions being fog.
From a compositional and technical perspective, fog works fantastic to create separation between the trees and from a storytelling perspective, it creates a very specific eerie and ethereal atmosphere. One morning I got the chance to photograph a local oak forest with the right conditions. Check out my video to see how I approached photographing in this gnarly oak forest.
To wrap up this article, I feel I earned these photos. The techniques I have learned from making “covers” of the iconic locations, I have implemented to make original photos in my own backyard. I also created some photos that reflects who I feel I am, and I want hanging on my wall. I have printed one from the above video and one from an earlier episode of my series “Tales from the Forest”. I have yet to hang them, but they came out as fantastic prints! Lastly, in two ways it means a great deal to me, that these photos are photographed in my own backyard. Firstly, they remind me of home and the feeling of “home” is in itself relaxing and comforting and secondly, how “home” can also be extraordinary. This is a stark reminder I do not need to seek out the exotic to create the extraordinary.
Check out the video above and let me hear how you feel about exploring your backyard in the comment section below.
Impressive to see how well you handle the chaotic forest 🎈
Thanks a lot, Hans! :)
If I work at it enough, I'm pretty sure I can make the garbage cans in my building's back yard look pretty cool...
Hire some models. You could create an entire new genre of photography.
What Jason said ;)
Try HDR. Tone mapped garbage cans...yea!! ;-)
Forests are kind of a challenge, like Hans said, mostly the chaotic ones, also the greens are a really pain in the ass to edit. You handled it perfectly I must admit. Great video and great article buddy. :)
Thanks a lot, Aritz! I completely agree with those greens! Are you colorblind too?
Great read. And i highly relate to this personally as I have come to more and more appreciation to the nearby forests myself with the same attitude.
Thanks a lot, Kai. I hope to see some german forest photography from you too :)
Huge inspiration Mads! Well done!
Thanks a lot, Mikkel! Means a lot. Would love to see what you can pull out of the devil island ;)
I wish I had the time :-) not easy when you have a full time job during the week days and wanna spent time with family and friends in the weekend :D
Family and friends are overrated... :D
I really like the cover song analogy.