I once read that, according to science, the color green has a special effect on the human brain. Due to our origin in the jungle and other green surroundings, even for today's modern people, the color green unconsciously equals the presence of water and the absence of starvation, which again soothes the brain, gives us peace of mind, and makes us relax.
I believe it. I can feel it. Being in a green forest is fuel to my soul. I can't say for sure if it's the color green, or perhaps the quiet, or the smell, or a combination of it all. What I do know is that I live in a country with no mountains or rivers, but what we have instead - for a few weeks in May - is the most beautiful shade of green your eyes can behold. That's when the leaves of the beech trees burst open in cascades of light-green color that can take your breath away as much as any high peak or waterfall in more mountainous areas of the world . At least, that's how I feel, and it seems like the older I get, the more I feel it.
Of course, my interest in photography also helps me appreciate this special time of year even more, so it's no wonder that as the time draws near, I become anxious and look at the weather forecast to make sure I get out there on just the right day and just the right hour when light and color form a perfect synthesis. Well, at least according to my own feeling. I'm not assertive enough to claim I have the exact answer... And besides, sometimes work, your state of mind, and life in general have more influence on when you get out there with your camera than anything else.
What I do know is that - unlike the case with much other landscape photography - the time of near sunset or the blue hour are not the optimal times for green leaf pictures. The lack of light during those times of day prevent the strong green color from showing to the best advantage. The sun needs to still be - not necessarily high in the sky - but well above the horizon. The forest itself will ward off any harsh shadows and too much contrast that is otherwise a problem during afternoon landscape shooting.
This year I went out twice to try to capture the greenness at its peak. The first time, on May 12, was possibly a few days too early as, in many places, the leaves were still a tad too sparse. Still, I came away with some excellent results from a spot I've had success at before: a particularly beautiful forest edge near the Frederiksborg Castle Garden.
Still in the same neighborhood, this may be my favorite shot. The light coming in from the right highlights the exquisite green color. But this is about as low as the sun should get before there's not enough light.
And yet, here's a picture taken several minutes later. The sun is still above the horizon, but it was becoming more difficult to emphasize the greenness. This is an HDR put together from two different exposures.Realizing it was becoming too late to catch the green leaves, I headed for the castle where I took some really nice long-exposures, but that's for another post.
Instead I went out again a week later - a little earlier in the day and with the leaves now fully expanded and still with all the brightness preserved.
As with all pictures I post on this blog, these too have been submitted to some more or less heavy post-processing. Sometimes, I admit, the post-processing I do is to make the scenery look a little more... shall we say... "colorful" than perhaps it actually was. Here, the post-processing has served only one purpose: to make the pictures resemble reality, as reality in this case cannot be surpassed. A raw unprocessed photo will not do reality justice at all - at least not with my limited skills as a photographer.
One trick to improve an image of a forest is to go against your instinct to make it as sharp and clear as possible. Unlike with just about all other pictures, I reduce clarity in Lightroom when I post-process pictures of forests. You should try it and see what happens.
The time when the green beech forest is at its peak lasts only about three weeks and is now long gone. After that, the leaves start to turn darker. They are still beautiful, but there is nothing like those three weeks to invigorate your spirit, soothe your soul, and take some awesome pictures!