Shooting in the Rain Forests of the Olympic Peninsula has long been on my photographic bucket list. This spring I had a chance to check it off my list. As usual, I did my research junkie thing, spending hours online looking at other photographers’ images and pouring over their techniques. Once I got there, though, it wasn’t quite as easy to shoot as I thought it would be. If you are planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest this is a must see and here are some tips. Some come from other photographers, some are from my experience but all are valuable. In no particular order:
1. It’s dark as heck in there! A sturdy tripod and cable release are a must. Even with higher ISO settings your exposures may be several seconds long. Also be aware that even on an overcast or rainy day the background outside the forest will be brighter than your subject. (We’ll deal with composition in a bit)
2. Your polarizing filter isn’t just for blue skies. Even in the darkness of the Rain Forest the amount of light reflecting off the leaves and moss is overwhelming. A polarizing filter will reduce the glare and give you much more saturated images.
3. Know your equipment. Have I mentioned it’s dark in here? Run some tests at home to find out how your camera performs at higher ISO settings and how much noise you can deal with in the digital darkroom. Even a hint of a breeze will ruin your 4 or 8 second exposure.
4. Protect your equipment. They call this a rain forest because…well…it rains a lot. Protecting your cameras and lenses (and don’t forget yourself) from the rain is a necessity. In a pinch a gallon size Ziploc bag and a rubber band works well. Put the camera and lens in the bag and seal it. Use scissors or a knife to cut a slit in the bottom seam that is large enough to let the front of your lens poke out and secure it with a rubber band. And be sure you have a lens cloth to wipe off any stray rain droplets.
5. Composition, composition, composition. The first word that came to my mind when I saw the subject was “Chaos.” The image at the beginning of this blog is a prime example. There are soooo many different types of plants and soooo much moss, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Be aware of the composition rules you learned early on. Look for repeating shapes, leading lines, contrasting elements. Don’t just follow your first inclination to point your camera and be able to crop something out of the images. Also try isolating smaller elements instead of shooting the grand landscape.
If you have a chance to shoot in the Rain Forest, jump at it. You won’t regret it and if you consider these tips you’ll come home with some memorable images.