One tree hill

Roger Voller finds beauty and drama in the lone trees dot­ted around Hamp­shire’s South Downs

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My in­ter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy started when I pur­chased my first D-SLR, a Nikon D3100, in 2011. Sud­denly I could treat tak­ing a ‘snapshot’ far more se­ri­ously – and get bet­ter re­sults. I was a lover of the out­doors with an in­ter­est in art, so a pas­sion for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy was in­evitable!

I live in Hamp­shire, and at week­ends I’ll of­ten ven­ture into the rolling hills of the South Downs Na­tional Park. Pop­u­lar land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy hotspots are not re­ally an at­trac­tion for me, be­cause ex­plor­ing ar­eas off the beaten track fires my cu­rios­ity and re­veals hid­den gems like these lone trees scat­tered across the downs. Build­ing an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with the char­ac­ter­is­tics of an area en­ables me to make a deeper con­nec­tion with the land, the sea­sons and the light, which I think is re­flected in my im­ages.

A long look

In­stead of the clas­sic widean­gle land­scape lens, I use my tele­photo lens. I rely on sim­ple clean com­po­si­tions to high­light the nat­u­ral cur­va­ture of the rolling downs, and to re­in­force the pres­ence of a sin­gle, al­lur­ing tree, of­ten with the sense of space on one side of the frame. A sin­gle tree can also help to cre­ate beau­ti­ful light and

I avoid com­pos­ing a frame with any dis­trac­tions in it, as even some­thing sub­tle can weaken a good pho­to­graph

shadow, as can be seen in Our Green Land [1].

I avoid com­pos­ing a frame with any dis­trac­tions in it, as even some­thing sub­tle can weaken a good pho­to­graph. My Manfrotto tri­pod al­lows me to com­pose the shot ac­cu­rately, and also avoid soft im­ages from cam­era shake, es­pe­cially at 300mm on my tele­photo lens.

Catch­ing the light

As I’m a lo­cal I can re­spond to favourable weather fore­casts quickly and run out to cap­ture the light, and I can also bide my time to cap­ture par­tic­u­lar sub­jects at the best time of year; Lemon Tonic [2] for ex­am­ple, was shot in the spring when the bright yel­low rape­seed field was in full bloom. Shoot­ing at the right time of year can make a huge dif­fer­ence; I shot the back­lit tree in Pil­grim’s Rest

[3] when the sun was set­ting fur­thest north in June. Back­lit im­ages are a chal­lenge to cap­ture, but they pro­duce the most dra­matic light and shadow, so it’s worth the ef­fort. My lens hood is crit­i­cal for re­duc­ing flare.

Even though shoot­ing dig­i­tal makes tak­ing a pho­to­graph eas­ier than ever be­fore, I still rel­ish the dis­ci­pline of get­ting it right in-cam­era. I find that’s the best way to prac­tice, rather than spend­ing hours edit­ing an im­age, and it en­ables me to pre­serve the nat­u­ral light and colours I wit­nessed .

Re­ceiv­ing two Com­men­da­tions in the pres­ti­gious Take a View Land­scape Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year awards has in­spired me to carry on, and ad­vance my land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy skills. In the fu­ture I would like to mas­ter film pho­tog­ra­phy, and take more shots of close-up de­tail – out­doors, of course!

01 01 OUR GREE N LAND Nikon D5100, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO200

02 LE MON TONIC Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/50 sec, f/9, ISO100

02

03 03 PILGRI M’S RE ST Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR, 1/640 sec, f/8, ISO400

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