Hatfield Forest Workshop with Justin Minns, October 2021 By Patrick Smith
Hatfield Forest was originally a royal hunting Forest created by Henry I around the year 1100 - Many of the trees planted in the park date back several centuries and the forest is now under the stewardship of the National Trust.
Many areas of woodland are planted with Hornbeam trees and due to their age are considerably larger than most of the Hornbeams that are seen in woods. The ‘muscular’ trunks are unique in appearance and offer a great subject for woodland photography.
Our RPS group met up with Justin for a 7am start and after introductions and an explanation of morning’s itinerary we set off towards the lake and managed to catch a brief period of a fine sunrise over the water. Speedy setting up of tripods and choice of composition allowed us just enough time to get a photograph over the lake to catch the colour in the morning sky.
From the lakeside we went through into the woods where the boardwalk provided interesting leading lines through the trees.
Justin took us to various locations and was always on hand to offer guidance on camera settings and advice on composition.
The colours of the leaves were still very green for late October – another sign of our warming climate? However, the greens were starting to mellow to rusts and yellows while the leaves provided a soft canopy, in contrast to the dark trunks of the Hornbeams - with their sinewy branches.
We spent a great morning finding different locations to photograph and around mid-morning we stopped for a much needed coffee break. Fortunately, the park features a National Trust café so a welcome late breakfast of sausage rolls with a cappuccino were consumed with relish!
Justin then showed us some of his own images on his laptop that provided us with inspiration of the many different aspects of woodland locations to photograph. For the rest of the morning, we ventured into the area of the forest that was more open parkland – as much of the area would have been when originally a deer hunting park in Medieval times.
Here there were some very ancient trees. These offered great photo opportunities to show the texture and depth of their shapes – created over many centuries they give a sense of real history exemplified by nature.
A beech wood copse visited next did not offer the variety of colour that one would have expected at this time of year. I experimented with some ICM with limited success!
The workshop, organised by Justin, was a great success and everyone seemed delighted with discovering such a gem of a forest, a place of contrast between the tranquillity of an ancient parkland and the modern brought home to us by the planes taking off from Stansted Airport just a few miles to the north. Henry I did not foresee that development!
All images © Patrick Smith
This article was featured in the RPS Landscape Group's Newsletter, January 2022.