As I was walking along the outskirts of a flooded cypress grove, exploring in the hopes of finding a new composition, I saw a bright spot in the woods a ways off. I was there to try and capture some of the cypress trees in the flooded area. I love how the black water creates such a sense of mystery and I often try and use that to my advantage. Yet I found myself wandering right through the waters, trying to get to the other side of the swamp to see what this light was all about.
With water logged boots and dripping wet, I made my to dry ground, back onto a trail and there it was - a shaft of light had managed to pierce the canopy and reveal this scene.
The tunnel-like effect created by the dark surrounding brush, and the way it contrasted with vivid light streaming through the treetops immediately caused me to drop my bag, setup my tripod and start hunting for a composition that would capture the moment.
The chaos of the forest can be difficult to work with sometimes. Irrelevant branches can rudely poke their branches into the frame, distracting from the scene. Strange reflections can glare off of wet leaves and draw the viewer's eye in the wrong direction. Heavy foliage on one side of the frame and open air on the other can make it feel unbalanced. Even the trees themselves can conspire against me, as they don't always grow straight, making the image feel lopsided. In fact, that was a particular challenge with this piece. The ground slopes from the high side on the right, towards the lower ground and the swamp on the left. The trees grow at a strange angle as they have found their way to the best light over the years. It took about 20 - 30 minutes to find this composition, with me all the while worrying that the light that had caught my eye would fade or disappear altogether as the sun ducked back behind the clouds.
That happened a few times while I was composing this shot. In fact, once I had found the angle I wanted to capture, the light was completely dull and flat. Sometimes, the scene and the area is so peaceful that I'm content to just wait it out and enjoy the moment. This time - not so much. I was wet. My boots were soaked and heavy. Mosquitos were swarming. It was late, and I knew the sun was dropping fast. I was about to give up.
And then, it happened. The sun crept out again from it's hiding spot, and slowly lit the scene. In the final version you see here, the light was just a little bit softer, a little less harsh than it was when I first saw it. I'm glad I was forced to wait. Although the brighter, more intense light may have made for a more dramatic scene, I'm enjoying the softer look presented here. The stand of cypress trees is still clearly highlighted - still standing out as special - but it's not overpowering and they feel like they are in harmony with the rest of the forest, with all of it's rich greens and soft textures.