Life update and a new forest for my workshops

I’m officially on summer holidays, or as every July of the last six years of my life, out of work. I can’t believe that the moment I’ve been waiting for all this time, has finally come. As you already know, after my year working for the UN in Mexico City, I returned home to a job as an English teacher. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had through that job, but I knew for quite some time that it was time to stop and give photography a chance.

So here I am. This is the beginning of a new career, I’m scared as hell but so ready to go for it. I’m taking this second part of the year as a transition into a new life. I’ve been doing photography for a very long time, but never as my only income, so I know it will be a challenging and a very difficult process.

However, I’m excited for what’s to come and for all the trips I’ve planned for the next few months. Next week I start with a trip to Granada to visit my dear friend Tania Cervián. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to shoot a few portrait sessions while I’m there, at least, that’s the plan! Then in August, we’re taking the van all the way up to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and driving around the UK for a month. In September, we’re taking a quick road trip to our beloved Switzerland. In October I’m visiting Marrakech and the Sahara with Tania again, and finally, in November, I’m flying to Mexico City. We are talking serious traveling here, and that means lots and lots of opportunities for photos.

Until I post those photos on here though, let me show you a few photos from Tuesday. Let me start by saying that when the alarm went off at 7 am I wasn’t happy. But I immediately looked out of the window and saw the mountains covered in fog, so I knew I had to get out. I got everything ready very quickly and drove for an hour. I have to admit that I had another spot in mind, which is 5 minutes away from this forest, but the road looked so interesting that I thought it was worth exploring a bit further. And yes indeed, it was very worth it! The fog stayed inside the forest for a couple of hours so I had the chance to take it slow and enjoy every moment of it.

I especially liked how the light entered from above and hit the right spots. At this time of the year, everything is lush green, so the trees looked beautiful. I also enjoyed the quietness of the place. All I could hear were my footsteps as well as some birds chirping. It was magic! I’m definitely returning soon to find new spots for my workshops this fall. I bet it looks as wonderful as in summer!

Why forest photography?

What kind of photographer are you? Are you concerned about the characteristics of your camera and creating technically perfect photos, or do your images convey a deeper message and you are more interested in how a photo makes the viewer feel?

Qué tipo de fotógrafo eres? Te preocupan las características de tu cámara y el hecho de crear fotografías totalmente perfectas, o prefieres transmitir un mensaje más profundo y te interesa más cómo le hace sentir a vuestro espectador?

It’s true that we all lust for better gear and sometimes feel that a different camera or a new lens will somehow improve our work. I feel that very often, but then I realize that I already have the gear I need in order to create photos that I like (remember to ask me if I believe these words again in a month).

Es verdad que todos queremos tener un equipo mejor, y que a veces una cámara diferente o un nuevo objetivo puede de alguna manera mejorar nuestro trabajo. Yo también siento eso muy a menudo, pero luego me doy cuenta de que ya tengo el equipo necesario para crear las fotos que me gustan (vuelve a preguntarme si sigo creyendo lo mismo el mes que viene).

I’ve never been a technical person, in fact, I don’t care much about having the latest technology and therefore I don’t need an extremely powerful camera either. Most of my work is slow paced, I like to walk around and compose the shots carefully and only then, I shoot in ONE SHOT mode and I focus and recompose all the time. But I must confess that I like having and investing a bit more in a nice lens, often primes.

Nunca he sido una persona que sabe de técnica, de hecho, no me importa mucho tener lo último en tecnología, así que tampoco necesito una cámara potente. La mayor parte de mi trabajo lo hago a un ritmo pausado, me gusta dar vueltas hasta dar con la composición. Utilizo el modo One Shot y siempre utilizo el punto del medio para enfocar y después recomponer. Sin embargo, debo confesar que me gusta tener e invertir un poco más en un buen objetivo, a menudo en focales fijas.

My photos are usually dark and moody, I mostly watch the sunrise from work and I’m usually tired to try to photograph the sunset. Therefore, I can only hope for cloudy days, and even then, I prefer rainy and foggy mornings so that I can I add a bit of atmosphere to my photos. I feel that my photos may not be technically perfect but I really want them to spark a feeling or some kind of emotion in the viewer.

A menudo mis fotos son oscuras, la mayoría de veces veo el amanecer desde el trabajo y normalmente suelo estar muy cansada como para querer fotografiar el atardecer. Por lo tanto, solo me queda esperar a los días nublados, e incluso entonces, prefiero que sean mañanas lluviosas y de niebla para poder añadir un poco de ambiente al trabajo. Creo que mis fotos probablemente no sean técnicamente perfectas, pero lo único que pretendo es que hagan sentir o transmitir alguna emoción al espectador.

When I photograph wide landscapes and I travel to other countries, I want to inspire others to do the same, to get to know the world we live in, to learn about other cultures… But when I photograph forests at home, I think is when I mostly show what’s going on in my mind.

Cuando fotografió grandes paisajes y viajo a otros países, mi intención es la de inspirar a otros que hagan lo mismo, que conozcan el mundo en el que vivimos, que aprendan de otras culturas. Pero cuando fotografío los bosques de casa, creo que es cuando más hablo de mí misma y de lo que hay en mi cabeza.

Why woodland or forest photography? I really don’t know. It’s true that I live surrounded by forests and that’s exactly what the landscape looks like here. Also, due to my work, I spend a lot of time driving from one place to another and I also have a hectic schedule. Though sometimes, in the mornings, I have a few hours when I can head up to the forest and escape a bit from the busy life.

Por qué fotografiar bosques? Realmente no lo sé. En parte es verdad que vivo en una zona con preciosos paisajes y con muchos bosques. También debido a mi trabajo, paso mucho tiempo conduciendo de un lado para otro y también tengo un horario complicado. Aunque a veces en las mañanas, tengo unas horas libres en las que puedo subir a algún bosque y escapar del ruido de alrededor.

I believe that’s how it all started. I use the time I am surrounded by nature to clear my mind and thoughts, and I can’t express how important that is for my (our) mental health. It’s all quiet and paused, the wind moves the leaves and it all feels good. I always bring my camera, because I can barely predict when and where the fog is going to show up. But if it’s a foggy day and it’s not raining heavily, you’ll probably find me wandering around the forest, usually near home.

Así es como creo que empezó todo. Aprovecho el tiempo que estoy rodeada de naturaleza para liberar mi mente y los pensamientos, y no puedo expresar lo importante que es eso para mi (nuestra) salud mental. Todo está tranquilo, el tiempo se para, el viento mueve las hojas y todo hace que me sienta bien. Siempre llevo alguna cámara encima, ya que apenas puedo predecir dónde y cuándo va a aparecer la niebla. Pero si es un día con mucha neblina y no llueve mucho, probablemente me encontrarás dando vueltas por algún bosque cercano a casa.

Composition in the forest is not easy, in fact I feel it’s pretty difficult compared to other areas of photography. Landscape photographs have to portray a sense of depth, usually there are several elements that take the viewer from one point to another in order to help turning a three dimensional scene into two. Therefore you need a strong foreground, usually a single element and often in the center of the image because the eye tends to drawn to it.

La composición en el bosque no es fácil, de hecho creo que es bastante más complicado en comparación a otros tipos de fotografía. Las fotos de paisaje tienen que transmitir una sensación de profundidad, normalmente hay varios elementos que llevan al espectador de un punto a otro con el fin de plasmar una escena tridimensional en dimensional. Así pues, es necesario que haya un primer plano lleno de fuerza, normalmente de un único elemento y a menudo ubicado en el centro de la imagen para hacer que el ojo empiece a rastrear la imagen desde ahí.

A forest is full of busy and messy scenes, so it’s not easy to organize the different elements. As I mentioned before, I always try to find an interesting foreground, something else in the middle and then the background. If you have fog, take advantage of it, since it will help you eliminate distractions and simplify the scene. Another trick when you have too many elements is to use a wide aperture; yes, most of my forest photos are shot at f/2.8 or so. Not only do I blur the stuff in the background that I don’t want to show, but I also get more light in the scene, which often lacks when you are surrounded by big trees and you are deep in the forest.

Un bosque siempre está lleno de escenas con muchos elementos, así que no es fácil organizarlo. Como he dicho anteriormente, siempre intento tener un primer plano interesante, algo que le siga en un segundo plano y finalmente un fondo. Si hay niebla, no dudes en aprovechar para hacer fotos, ya que siempre te ayudará a eliminar distracciones y a simplificar la escena. Otro truco es que cuando tienes muchos elementos, siempre puedes utilizar un diafragma de bajo valor; si, muchas de mis fotos de bosques las disparo a f/2.8. De esta manera ayudo a hacer que aparezca más borroso aquello que no me interesa y además consigo más luz, cosa que siempre falta cuando estas rodeado de árboles altos y te encuentras dentro de un bosque.

Here is a recent example.

Aquí tienes un ejemplo reciente.

Now, I’m sure that many people will think that I’m shooting in the wrong way, or that I shouldn’t photograph landscape photos with such a wide aperture… But, do I care? Not really. Does it help me achieve what I’m looking for? Totally. Does it tell some kind of story? I sure hope so.

Estoy segura de que mucha gente creerá que disparo las fotos de una manera equivocada, o que no debería de hacer fotos de paisaje con un diafragma tan pequeño… Pero, es algo que me importa? Realmente no. Hace que sea posible lograr lo que me interesa? Totalmente. Cuenta algún tipo de historia? Espero que sí.

Most people advise to “get it right in camera”, and I try to do that of course, but taking into account the way I’m going to edit afterwards. If my work is moody, and that morning the light in the forest and the ambiance was dark, I’m not going to take a bright and airy photo. Plus, the camera I usually shoot with has a better recovery for shadows than highlights, so I usually underexpose a stop or two to get the mood in camera.

Mucha gente aconseja que “expongamos bien en cámara”, y obviamente yo también intento hacer eso mismo, pero siempre teniendo en cuenta cómo voy a editar después. Si mi trabajo es un tanto oscuro, y en esa mañana la luz del bosque y el ambiente era tristón, no haré una foto con mucha luz y alegre. Además, la cámara con la que normalmente trabajo, recupera mejor las sombras que las luces altas, por lo tanto yo sub expongo un paso o dos para llevarme un poco de atmósfera en cámara.

Each of us has it’s own tricks and different ways to express ourselves. Are these the rules that you need to follow so as to get photos like mine? I don’t think so. After all, photographing forests is kind of a therapy to me, and probably doesn’t have any meaning to you. I just hope that in doing so, I can instill some kind of feeling in the viewer, because that’s all that matters in photography.

Cada uno de nosotros tiene sus propios trucos y maneras diferentes de expresarse. Son estas las reglas que tienes que seguir para conseguir unas fotos como las mías? No lo creo. Después de todo, fotografiar bosques es un tipo de terapia para mí, y probablemente no tenga ningún significado para ti. Lo único que pretendo es que con un poco de suerte pueda transmitir alguna emoción al espectador, que al final, eso es lo único que importa en la fotografía.

One to one workshop in the forest

It doesn’t happen very often, but when conditions are right, the photos are right there, in front of you. That’s what happened last Sunday during my workshop with a friend. I wanted to go to a new forest and I asked him if he knew about a place near where he lives. He said he had never been there before, but that the fog had set the previous night and that we would have fog until midday. I was in!

After a one hour drive I got to this beautiful place and the magic began. Autumn colors were showing already, there was a nice, thick fog, the beech trees had incredible shapes and the best thing was that we had the place for ourselves.

During my workshops in the forest, people often ask me how I compose and how do I achieve a specific mood. I understand that it can be a bit tricky with all the information we have in front of us, that’s why I think that foggy conditions as well as rainy mornings help achieving better results. You may ask why photograph in such dark conditions… but the truth is that dramatic scenes are more attractive than dull ones. Rain saturates the colors, therefore leaves look more vibrant. Fog helps composing the scene, it blurs the background, helping create more simple, yet more powerful compositions.

The key is to find a subject and try to photograph it in a way that the viewer will stare at it for more than two seconds (huge achievement nowadays!). Always look around, don’t stop when you shoot the first photo, I’m sure there are many other ways to find a different perspective.

I always compose through the screen, I feel it helps to check if branches are interfering in the corners, or if there’s anything we want to leave out of the scene. Also, I always shoot with my editing in mind, so I usually underexpose in order to get deep shadows, because in a forest scene like this, you will have lots of dark areas as well as bright light in the higher part of the photograph, so why try to always expose everything?

I feel that the most important thing in my workshops is not just to learn the technique, but also to take the time to look around and feel lucky to be there at the right time in the right place. I feel it’s when I’m most creative and then during the editing everything comes easily.

I already mentioned this on a recent post on IG, and here it goes again… I don’t know what my photos may make you feel. I don’t want my photos to seem scary and I’m not trying to achieve the mysterious look either... I’m simply trying to convey a rather peaceful feeling, and definitely pushing you to take care of nature.

If you want to get more info about available dates for my landscape or online editing workshops, drop me a line to :)

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm XT2 + 16mm f1.4

How I achieve this moody look in my forest photos

Outdoor photography isn't easy. There are many factors that make this style really challenging, but today I'm going to concentrate on just one: Mood. I often read comments on my photos that say something like "Oh I love the mood in your photos", but what does this really mean?

I'm very specific about the kind of photos that I like to take and make. I have already mentioned in other blog posts, that I like to go out when it's dark, cloudy and foggy. There is something about that eerie and mysterious look that I'm really attracted to. I feel that the sense of adventure is greater in those conditions. I don't know really know, maybe it's because of the place where I live (Basque Country), where rain and clouds are a constant in our lives and I'm just comfortable shooting in the rain. I guess that somehow, having grown up in an environment like ours, has played an important role in the style of photographs that I enjoy shooting, and I'm very grateful for that. 

I always carry a small camera with me and this helps a lot, because whenever the conditions are right (for the kind of photos I like to take) I always have a tool available in my car. I'm lucky to live surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains, so in less than a thirty minute drive, I have all these locations that you see in the photos below, for myself. I'm usually the only one out there, probably because people don't find rainy weather exciting to go out and shoot, so it's always a pleasure to wander around these places in silence. 

Other important factors of my photographs are how I expose and edit. I like dark shadows and vibrant colors. How do I achieve that? By under exposing while I'm taking the photos and playing with the curve tones and the different sliders of colors in Lightroom. Many people have told me that I under expose a bit too much in camera (sometimes even a couple of stops), and then during post processing I open up the shadows quite a lot. For many photographers, this may sound a bit contradictory, because they prefer to get the correct exposure when they are out in the field. However, I find editing as important as the actual process of taking the photo, so I've put in a lot of hours to develop an editing style that I really like and that works for my photos. 

Over the years I've created a bunch of presets, and most of the photos you see here are based on a couple of those. Once I apply the preset, the next step is to adapt the sliders to each photo. The same happens with the new Forged presets that I use and were created by Tribe Red Leaf Studios. Their colors are incredible, but when you buy presets from others, you need to adapt them to your own work, because the light, atmosphere, textures and subjects are different in each session. Even if I put my presets up for sale, you probably wouldn't be able to get the same tones as I do, unless you also exposed and took the photos in the same kind of light and conditions that I work in. 

There are some repetitive factors on my photos, the locations I shoot, the conditions in which I photograph, the way I expose in camera and the kind of presets I apply in editing. I know that that's what differentiates my work from yours, and I really believe that each of us should have our own techniques and should work to find a unique look. This is not easy, because we are constantly flooded by the same kind of photos, in the same kind of places and with similar styles... But at least, we should try to overcome this and create something different and one of a kind.

It's important to know how the weather conditions affect the way a place looks, therefore, I always recommend to go back to the same place and shoot over and over in order to learn when it's best to choose one location or another. Yes, sometimes I'm lucky and I'm rewarded by these beautiful scenes even when I wasn't planning on it, but a lot of the times I just head back home with an empty card. And that is still fine, because the little walk in the forest is always perfect to clear your mind and to connect with nature.

So, tell me, what do you like to photograph and what are your favorite conditions to photograph in? Let me know, I'd love to hear!