This image is one of the favorites of people who visit my website and browse through the categories, so I thought I’d write a bit about how it was made. The timing should be great too – what better time to write about a dark scary image than Halloween?
Although it was June, the weather had been particularly cold so the weather conditions were great for mysterious foggy forest shots. Me and my brother had been wandering all day through the forest. The weather changed a lot of times from sun to rain so this brought a lot of opportunities. We ran like mad searching for light rays to capture and hid everything away looking for shelter when rain came pouring down. This happened throughout the day so later in the day we were pretty tired.
After chasing sun rays through the forest we reached a part that we didn’t know really well and were amazed to find some giant old trees with big twisted roots. It was really one of those special moments, one in which we felt our steps were guided there. One of those old trees stood out and I knew we had to make something special with it.
I’ve mounted my tripod in a strange position so I was afraid the camera was going to fall over, but it was worth it. I used a wide angle lens at 19 mm, an aperture of f/8 and an exposure of 1/3 seconds because the woods were really dark at that time. I had used hands before in photos to create a creepy surreal atmosphere and to make it seem like some kind of monsters were coming out from the ground. This time I used the hands of my brother coming from the sides of the frame and to the center. The final shot is a composite of 4 photos to make up for the fact that I didn’t have so many “hands models”. I love the darkness, the surreal feel and the overall mood of this photo.
That place really felt surreal and special so I am glad people like the image. For those of you who want to license dark scary surreal images, you can find it exclusively here: https://www.stocksy.com/1334681
I’ve written about photographing star trails and other types of landscapes at night before on this blog, but there is another type of night photography that I like and find really interesting – photographing deep in the woods at night, in total darkness. It’s a unique experience and I have to admit that I really feel the grandeur of nature when doing this.
This works best when the air is a bit hazy but there isn’t any thick fog. Going deeper into the woods on forest roads and then leaving it always feels a bit like the premise of a horror movie. It’s a totally different experience than in the daylight because a lot of the forest creatures are nocturnal. There are strange noises and little glowy eyes following you everywhere so imagination runs wild. Knowing that the “safety” of civilization is so far away and gets ever further makes for and interesting mix of emotions.
It was on one of these night hikes trough the forests of Transylvania that I made the photo “Apparition in Forest at Night”. As always, I was with my brother. We saw that the light from the flashlight is casting interesting shadows and tried to see how a lit silhouette would perform under such conditions. Like on all night photos I used a tripod and a wide angle lens. The problem here was that the light behind the silhouette was coming from a flashlight and was pretty low so the silhouette became blurry because of the tiny movements. I tried to keep the exposure as low as possible but still needed 50 seconds at f5,6 and ISO 400. Multiple tries later, the result was something surreal and dark that makes the mind wander. It could be a magical portal to another world, the materialization of a dark time, a ghost apparition or even an alien. It could also be a vision for the concept of spiritual enlightenment, time and space.
Winter has a mysterious side matched by no other season. The fact that there are only a few hours of light might be a drawback, but for me this thing sets the right mood for the mind to imagine fantasy worlds that begin where the dark snowy woods begin, and where the roads become impassable for the vehicles.
I was out with my brother photographing the beauty of winter woods all day carefully timing everything so I wouldn’t get caught by the night as the plan was to get back to the car while the light was still enough, but just when I wanted to turn back it started snowing so I knew that I had to miss my schedule and stay a little longer. The snowflakes were falling heavily over the landscape so I took this chance and took as many photos as I could. In winter light falls fast so every minute the conditions were changing. It came to a point where I realized that it’s completely dark, so me and my brother started using our flashlights. The image of a man walking through the fog at night in the woods with snow flakes falling everywhere looked very theatrical, it was like we were seeing a movie so we had to capture this.
Using a wide angle lens and a tripod I opened aperture to f5,6 so I could have a shutter speed of 20 seconds and still have everything in focus. I used the flash multiple times to make the large snowflakes visible in the frame because otherwise they would not have been visible.
Like all the photos that remain in the mind of the viewer, this one has a special atmosphere. The man is wandering in the unknown. Anyone can make his own story out of it. Maybe the character is lost, or he is out seeking something in a haunted forest or it could even be that the silhouette belongs to a ghost or an alien. Imagination has no limit. I’m glad that a lot of people saw something in it too and made their own story.
I don’t usually capture photos of wildlife, but in my search for special moments in nature I got a glimpse of them a few times. It’s always like seeing a chimera, a ghost. I know it’s something that many never see and that I don’t see everyday. I also know that these sightings get fewer as time goes by and as we humans destroy the places that wild animals inhabit, so it becomes more and more like seeing a ghost. I feel that I am wittnessing something rare. This is why this feels a bit bittersweet to me.
I was out in the woods in winter photographing when snow started to fall. I started shooting with a tele lens to get the dreamy snowflakes in the frame, and after a couple of minutes I saw this wild deer trough the trees. It didn’t take long before it noticed me and got further and further away from me, but I managed to capture the photo above, along with others. The trees made everything even more difficult, but I like how in the end the tree trunks frame the deer and also the fact that the dark trees contrast with the snowflakes falling. It truly was a magical moment.
It seems that the folks at Stocksy appreciated this special moment too, so now it is available for licensing here.
I’ve had this photo added to the curated feed recently on Stocksy.
I’m glad others like it too, because I feel that it has a special winter fairy tale atmosphere. It is a photo taken in 2012, but I couldn’t find the perfect balance when editing it until now, so it spent almost 4 years in the making.
Even tough this doesn’t happen with all my photos, I do spend a lot of time getting everything right, and getting the right feel trough a discrete enough editing. Not to mention the planning of the trip, getting there and actually taking the photos in the right conditions.
Quality does need time, unfortunately the world has less and less time for quality. Just think about how quickly a new book, a new album or a new movie gets obsolete. Everyone just wants the next one and so on. There’s too little place for soul in art nowadays.
There’s been some cold and rainy days where I live. Good for photography but really bad for the equipment and the photographer. The photo above was taken last year, on a similar cold and rainy autumn day. The raindrops flying trough the air are visible in contrast to the dark forest, and the last leaves on the branch give a sense of a late autumn. Sometimes the atmosphere is in the little details. I love the autumn rain, but I do hope the weather gets better – I had to postpone a photo tour because of it.
This moody autumn detail is available for licensing at Stocksy.
The forest is an enchanted place filled with wonder and mystery. When fog descends on to the trees time seems to move at a different pace from the outside world. Every step takes the traveler deeper into the woods and closer to a mysterious, dark and surreal world, where everything is possible. One can almost see the mythological creatures sneaking trough the forest and watching him from behind the trees. This is the realm where the legends are born, where the line between reality and fantasy is erased and where imagination is running wild.
I’ve been exploring the wonders of the forest alongside my brother for as long as I can remember. “Mysterious Forests of Transylvania” is a fine art coffee table book that focuses on the mystery and atmosphere of the enchanted woods that we spent so many days in. We want to bring the magic of the forest for the whole world to see.
You can get it in hardcover or paperback format, 10×8 in, 25×20 cm, 48 Pages on Premium Matte paper, and you can also get a preview here: