I stumbled upon a photo and am intrigued at what the photographer do to achieve this result.

tree in forest

I know there will be much processing involved but to achieve a decent photo that is exposure in dense forestation, are there any techniques involved?

A few came to mind

  • Variable ND filter
  • Multiple Shots of the same tree at different exposure for HDR

Definitely some form of HDR or extreme shadow recovery.

Look at the shadow of the tree on the grass, in a regular photograph it would be rendered almost pure black if you were shooting into the sun like that, instead it is only a few shades darker than the grass next to it under the sun. Now some fill light will be hitting the shadow area via the leaves, but not enough to get the result seen.

The same is true of the unlit side of the branches/trunk.

You don't need a variable ND filter - you're not aiming for any sort of long exposure. All you need is a tree, sun low in the sky (morning or late afternoon) multiple exposures and software to merge them.

There is no filter that can tame a wide dynamic range in all cases. A graduated ND wouldn't be of much use as it's not just the sky you want to darken, you want to darken the sky around the tree branches leaving detail in the branches themselves. This would be almost impossible to pull off without digital post production, even with dodging and burning in the darkroom.

So you are left with some sort of local brightness enhancement or exposure blending in the digital darkroom as the only option.


He shot it at f/16 in a Japanese Garden at just the right time to grab the sun flare. That is a good start, along with a bunch of post processing and probably a CPL.

  • In terms of post-processing I'd say not much more than a heavy recovery of shadows and a saturation boost. The light and leaf colour is doing a lot of the work. – ElendilTheTall Jun 20 '14 at 9:48

In addition to the other responses, I would also suggest flash, especially if you can fire the flash multiple times manually during a longer exposure.


There is no filter required. A polarizer might be helpful though.

You need some rather short focal length. The perspective is from actually under the tree's crown.

You would need a nice tree in equally beautiful surroundings.

And you need good timing and weather conditions.

Photography is probably much less about technique as you might think, although some HDR was most probably involved.

  • 1
    Getting images like that is more about processing than you might think. Yes you need a tree, and the sun needs to be shining and not directly overhead, but having looked at all images on the original post they all have very clear signs of processing. Saying all you need is to find the right surroundings or weather is a bit misleading. – Matt Grum Jun 20 '14 at 13:01
  • That may well be. But saying you need a filter (for which he asked) or some HDR only is misleading in the same way. The truth is it is a bit of everything. You cannto shot some tree from a distance, process it in HDR and expect a great image. On the contrary, if the original photographer would have burded this image on a slide - with no postprocessing at all - then it would still be a great shot. I say that every single image of the bracketed series that he may have used is a great shot as such. – Hermann Klecker Jun 20 '14 at 15:16
  • The question was what techniques were used for that particular shoot, not how to get a nice photo of a tree. Colour slide film had terrible DR and wouldn't get you anywhere near. As I said in the comment above you need a tree (goes without saying that the tree should not be miles away), the sun in the right place and Photoshop – Matt Grum Jun 21 '14 at 8:01

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