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 Wood & Boulders - Wistmans Wood

Wistmans wood is the last of the ancient Forrest of Dartmoor, which stood for millennia before man cleared the land for farming and grazing. All that remains is this mysterious tangle of stunted trees with their moss covered twisted boughs, amongst the granite boulders. Wistmans wood is not easy to photograph you have to work at finding compositions amongst the chaos. Dartmoor's weather is also very changeable, I have attempted to photograph Wistmans several times now in the mist, but each time as I have started to get into the photography the mist has lifted and turned to rain, so the need to be flexible can not be stressed enough for a Dartmoor Photographer.

00369bn LRG

Wistmans wood presents a challenge to all photographers, and I have seen many different approaches to overcoming them. The main difficulty with Photographing Wistmans (for me) is its confusion. I find it difficult to find a point for the eye to settle on, I bounce from one thing to the next, trying to make sense of what I am looking at. The ground underfoot is very difficult to cross (So please take care breaking and ankle here would be very easy!) the granite boulders are slippery with ankle breaking gaps between them, the ground very wet, covered in deep mud and a tangle of vegetation.

Sometimes I just stop, have a coffee and look around, take out the camera and look through the viewfinder. The very act of looking through a small rectangle simplifies the landscape. No longer does your eye have the freedom to wander, looking and seeing become deliberate acts. Amongst this confusion there are features which start to stand out these two images show a couple of the elements that allowed my eyes to rest and begin to peel back the layers of complexity, and allowing a deeper understanding and connection with the landscape.


Tree Stump
This dead remains of an old tree, seemed to explain the whole nature of Wistmans Wood. Crowned with it’s own miniature forrest clinging onto life. The curve and lean of the trunk also look out of place and contrast with the straighter tree trunks in the background, the lean of the trunk matches that of the granite finger pointing at it from the left. Processed in Photoshop and Nik software it has been given a warm tone (Black and White version available) the background has been diffused sightly to add prominence to the main subject.


00371bn LRGGranite Boulder.
The floor of Wistmans Wood is littered with boulders of every shape and orientation. It is virtually impossible to traverse the wood without clambering over some. But few offer much opportunity for photography, All of them have interesting textures and mosses, but in this wood we are in full texture overload. Finding this sentinel piece that could be photographs using differential focus throwing both background and foreground into softness focuses the eye on the detail of the main boulder it’s self.


Wistmans Wood holds huge potential for photography and I’m sure I will visit again and come back with completely different results. The photographs on this page and there Black an White cousins can be purchased as Fine Art Prints. I also run photography workshops into Wistmans wood and the surrounding Tors.