Photographing a Mythical Forest

Beautiful black and white image of moss-covered fallen trees in Paradise on the South Island of New ZealandNikon D800e Camera and Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens @ 24mm. Exposure Details: 9 stop HDR composite from 1/60 to 2 second @ f11 ISO 400.

I wanted so much to visit Paradise, a relatively remote area of forest on the South Island of New Zealand. I first became aware of the location while researching some of the locations used in the filming of the classic motion picture film Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring. I finally got to visit the area during August 2012.

Paradise Found

Paradise, at least in this case, is not so much a destination, but an area. The road doesn't so much take you to or through paradise, but alongside it. It really is a matter of getting out of the car and walking into the forest to see what awaits you. Now try to tell me that's not a metaphor for life. But look at the reward that awaits. And it's only about 100 meters from the car.

Entering a New World

The first thing you notice when entering a forest is light. Once you pass the veil that separates the brighter outer world and cross into the forest proper your eyes open to adapt to the darker conditions.

Suddenly what appears as an impenetrable wall of darkness from the roadside is revealed: at first as being much brighter than expected; and then, as the cones in your eye's kick in, as a world of green. It's a little like when Toto pulled back the curtain and exposed the wizard. Wow, would you look at that?

Time Traveller

As I write I'm wondering about how time seems to move more slowly within the borders of a forest. Perhaps there's some deep collective memory from our primitive past, when dinosaurs roamed.

I remember being attracted to the mosses that carpeted the fallen tree trees. Its as if they foretell our own, inevitable demise. It seems to me that such metaphors of metamorphosis strike deep within our psyche. Perhaps that's why this kind of subject matter connects with us on such a profound level. 

While the green of the forest was beautiful, I felt the textural qualities of the trees and earth were the dominant aspects of the scene. Black and white seemed the best option.


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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru