Autumn in the Fôret de Bercé, La Sarthe, France
ailsa mcWhinnie, features editor
Fujifilm X-T3, 50mm, 1/1300sec at f/2, ISO 3200 I first visited this forest when I was 10 years old. Mainly sessile oak, its knot-free trees were the wood of choice for building French naval ships. They are now used mainly to make casks.
For me, its history is more personal. Over the past 38 years, I have walked among its bare-twigged trees in winter, as buds begin to form in spring, when the greenery of summer almost threatens to suffocate, and through ankle- deep golden leaves in autumn. My visits became more frequent after my parents made a permanent move to a nearby village, and after my father’s death, the oaks, pines and birches were steadfast when I felt anything but. More recently, they have provided a refuge from the anxieties that are an inevitable reaction to dealing with a lone aging parent. It is impossible to walk among them and feel anything other than complete calm.
One morning in November this year, while visiting my mother, I woke up to a thick fog. There was only one place I wanted to go, taking my recently purchased Fujifilm X-T3 with me. I criss- crossed through the forest for a couple of hours, desperately trying not to simply fire off shots in every direction. I chose this image because it encapsulates the stillness and silence of a place that has been so important to me. I’d never seen it looking so stunning.
By the time you read this, my mother will have moved back to the south of England. I don’t know when or if I’ll return to the forest again. I will miss it.