There’s a pleasure in the pathless woods…..*

Burning bush, Stapleford Woods, NottsBurning bush, Stapleford Woods, Notts

This is usually a bad time of year for me in photography terms, and this year is no different.  Although I can see the possibilities out there, I lose that feeling of really wanting to go out and shoot that’s stirred in me by the light and colour of the other seasons.  I’m also still pondering where to go with this blog – having said I want to write about other things, my mind has – of course – gone quite blank.  What on earth were those things I itched to write about?  I’ve no idea. I’m sure they’ll come back to me eventually, and for the moment I’m content to let things percolate quietly away in that inaccessible part of my brain that’s prone to making contact with the rest of me only as and when it feels like it.

So, no new pictures, but some old ones that I never got round to processing.  Even though I’ve been very happy in this area because of the friends I’ve made and the interesting things I’ve been doing, I still feel a big pang of homesickness for the woods and the sea.  The sea is a long way off, only to be visited occasionally, but I did think it would be easier to find large stretches of woodland.  There are some – for example, Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park, but they’re a bit of a drive away and far too visitor-friendly for my taste.  I don’t want facilities.  I don’t want tarmacked paths and signposts, or cafes, or gift shops, or play areas, or even toilets.  I want somewhere that feels remote and that has enough mud to deter most visitors, leaving it nice and quiet for me and the other anti-social people who use it.  I want to switch off when I walk.  I use it as a kind of meditation, a calming down, a breathing space, and it doesn’t work for me if there are too many other folk there.

After a while I did find some woodland quite nearby. It’s a ten-minute drive, which isn’t too bad, and the woods are beautiful, if on the small side, and apart from a small kiosk in the car park they have no facilities at all.  They really are quite small, and the choice of walks is very limited, but I’m just grateful that there’s anything at all within easy reach.  There are areas of deciduous trees and work is underway to increase the size of these, but the greater part of the wood is made up of conifers.  Have you ever noticed how quiet pine forests are? – there’s a peace in this place that’s very soothing to the spirit.  I took these photos on two different visits, both in the autumn.  It’s been quite a while since I played around with the Orton technique and I still have a soft spot for it, so I’ve processed these both straight and Orton-style.

I’m going to put them side by side – well, more top and bottom, really, but it’s a figure of speech – so that you can see the difference quite clearly.  What I like about Orton is that it makes things look a little dreamlike and insubstantial and it also masks detail that I’d rather not see, like all the twiggy stuff in the foreground of some of these shots.  It also brings out colours very strongly, so strongly, in fact, that I had to desaturate the Ortonised images to make them look less like those poorly printed and luridly over-saturated postcards of the 1960s.

If anyone reading has any preference as to which works best for you, or any other comments on them come to that, I’d be very interested to hear.  I prefer the Ortonised ones myself, mostly because they move away from straight depiction of place and more towards the feeling and mystery of it.  I think it’s probably just personal taste in the end but it’s always interesting to hear another point of view.  (Note: the image at the top of the post didn’t respond well to Ortonisation because of the strong colours, so don’t go looking for its Orton counterpart – there isn’t one.)

Clearing, Stapleford Woods, NottsClearing

Clearing (Orton), Stapleford Woods, NottsClearing, Orton technique

Path, Stapleford Woods, NottsPath

Path (Orton), Stapleford Woods, NottsPath, Orton technique

Shelter, Stapleford Woods, NottsShelter

Shelter (Orton), Stapleford Woods, NottsShelter, Orton technique

Green, Stapleford Woods, NottsGreen

Green (Orton), Stapleford Woods, NottsGreen, Orton technique


*Loosely quoted from Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.  Really quite apt, since Byron is rumoured to have stayed in our cottage when it was still a coaching inn.