Adam Burton Photography

Dewerstone Wood, Dartmoor

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If you are looking for an atmospheric photograph of a woodland stream, then Dartmoor National Park is an ideal place to head to.  Thanks to Dartmoor’s high levels of precipitation, there are many streams and rivers which gurgle through gnarled, dark and wet moss covered woodlands.  In my explorations over Dartmoor throughout the past year I have yet to come across a more perfect location for this type of photography than Dewerstone Wood.   

Dewerstone Wood lies at the meeting point of two Dartmoor rivers, the River Meavy and the River Plym.  Along the lengths of each river gnarled and twisted branches of deciduous trees stretch far out across the rocky streams.  In this dark and wet woodland, all exposed surfaces become coated in picturesque carpets of vibrant green moss, providing the imaginative with visions of an enchanted woodland.

My first visit to Dewerstone Wood was more of a reconnaissance trip to learn more about the area, but as is often the case this first trip turned out to be the most productive.  I arrived at the location fairly late in the day; luckily the sun had dipped behind the steep valley slopes meaning that the contrast range within the woodland was fairly even. 

I wandered along the banks of the River Plym, crossing back and forth over the footbridge while looking for effective compositions.  Luckily access is easy, there are trails beside each river and sometimes on both banks.  But photographing within woodlands is not so simple; it can be very challenging to find an uncluttered and effective composition in such a naturally busy and random location.  In such situations I spend more time looking for visually strong subjects that will simplify the composition; just one or two main focal points to create an eye catching yet uncluttered image.

I soon found the focal points I was looking for.  The moss covered tree stretching out over the water, combined with a narrow boulder strewn section of river was to form the basis for my composition.  After setting up my camera and tripod I carefully fine tuned my composition to ensure all the subjects were in the right place.  By keeping the tree on the left and the river on the right of the frame, my composition was well balanced.  Using the focal length on my 17-40L zoom I tightened the frame slightly to achieve a number of things.  Firstly to exclude as much white sky as possible while keeping as much of the tree in the frame, secondly to keep all of the hanging branch on the far right edge of the shot, and finally to position the two boulders on the bottom right to fill the empty space in the water and further balance the shot.

Once I was happy that my composition was strong, I attached a polariser to reduce any reflective glare and saturate the greens throughout the image.  This had the side effect of lengthening my exposure to 30 seconds and causing the water to blur.  Blurred silky water is a personal taste thing for photographers; personally I love it and so was more than happy for the effects caused by the long exposure.

After I captured this image I continued to move up the river bank, looking for other clean compositions.  The light was by now fading fast, so I packed up soon after and returned to the car, making a mental note to return to this location.  Since this first visit I have made many return trips, but haven’t yet been able to capture an image that can compete with this one.  But in such a beautiful location, it is no chore returning time and again to try!


I prefere the shot furthest down the page to all the rest. The detail in the foreground rocks is stunning, not to mention the blurry white river flowing by them! It also contains the least amount of white sky.
Keep up the inspirational work!

by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08th August 2011

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