Autumn Snow - Foxley Wood

I find that one of the most difficult subjects to photograph well is dense woodland such as that at Foxley Wood. The composition is always busy with small branches and a dense undergrowth of brambles.
A place to sit and contemplate
So when the snow falls and obscures much of that clutter it becomes that much easier to create a passable woodland composition. That, coupled with the fact that autumn is still not over gave me the opportunity to take photos that combine the two seasons - autumn and winter.

Location: Foxley Wood. As a managed woodland there are several woodland drives to enable the easy transport of felled timber. This memorial bench (below) sits at the top of one of those drives. Behind it, in the spring, the ground is a sea of bluebells. So why is the bench not facing the other way? I've always thought it strange, but today, as the sun shines on the autumn leaves I at last understand. 

The memorial bench looks down the drive
Inspiration: The bench was placed here in memory of someone who regularly walked these woods and presumably enjoyed this spot in particular. Such benches always put me in a contemplative mood. They make me think of someone in their twilight years, sat reflecting on the past - the good, the bad and what they might have done differently. I wanted to capture that reflective mood.
Technique: walking back towards the bench from the 'bluebell fields' I was struck by the sun shining through from the left creating foreground highlights in the snow and creating a tunnel of gold over the bench. I took several snapshots to check the exposure and was quite surprised to find the exposure meter had made a good job of the entire scene. I was esp. pleased to note there was no evidence, at all, of blown highlights.
I didn't want to loose the light so I had to think through the composition fairly quickly. I needed the bench - no bench, no story - I needed the golden tunnel; but I didn't like the dark wooded area to the left and I didn't like the area of green just in front of the bench. So I got down low - I had to lie in the snow - and zoomed in tightly. This had the effect of raising the bench so that I was shooting through it into the golden tunnel. From the preview I appeared to have precisely the shot I wanted.

Camera Work: Nikon D7000, Raw(14bit), ISO 200, Exposure: 1/40sec @ F14, Focal length 200mm

Post Capture Processing: in Nikon Capture NX2. Of course at F14 the depth of field was too great; resulting in the foreground being too sharp. I had to add a small gradient layer over the snowy foreground and add Gaussian Blur of 3 pixel radius. Then apart from very small tweaks to increase saturation and intensify the autumnal hue, I was finished.

Picture of the day

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