Member-Led Event – Ranmore Common led by Peter Stott
by Claire Binyon
A group of seven of us met recently at Ranmore Common in the Surrey Hills at what, because of the darkness, felt like a very early hour even though it was almost seven in the morning. We were joining one of the RPS Landscape Member-Led Events, an outing amongst the beech, oak and other native deciduous trees in a natural woodland setting. Peter Stott had kindly arranged an excellent route, very generously sharing some of his favourite locations for autumn woodland photography.
Image: © Steve Oakes
After introductions and a briefing from Peter, we started out on a wide track leading away from the car park, lined on one side by a row of well-established beeches raised above ground level, and so marking an ancient boundary, exposing their moss-covered roots. The weather was good to us, staying dry and mild, although it didn’t bring the hoped-for mist, and the dawn light soon started to break through the canopy. Tripods were the order of the day to keep the ISO down, and the still air allowed for the long exposures needed to capture the scene with little leaf blur.
Image: © Lorraine Clifton
Once we had got our eye in, we moved on and the group fanned out, searching for compositions that spoke to each of us. The autumn colours were starting to develop in the bracken and around the margins, but still had some way to go, so we embraced the challenge of making images predominantly in shades of green, helped by the differing textures, shapes and tones. One of the perennial challenges of woodland photography is creating simplicity out of what can be chaos – literally being able to see the wood for the trees!
Image: © An Autumn Morning by Paul Benham
Some of us focussed on wider, environmental views of the beech woodlands, with the occasional oak or birch, path or glade providing contrast or a focal point. Others were drawn to more intimate scenes, picking out details in the branches, trunks and roots, or closer still for fungi, mosses and such like. There was something for everyone.
Image: © Neil Mountford
Our route took us further into the woodland along well-trodden paths and bridleways, thankfully mostly dry underfoot, that provided plenty of opportunities to wander off left and right exploring the area. Some experimented with handheld as the light levels increased, other stuck to our trusty tripods. We regrouped to admire a veteran beech encircled by her daughter trees.
Image: Gooby Ranmore © Richard Taylor
There was a surprising amount of variety in a relatively small area and for such an accessible location we had the woodlands to ourselves apart from a couple of dog walkers and mountain bikers. We emerged at the far end of the woods to a magnificent view over the valley below us and enjoyed the sun and a well-earned rest. As we gradually made our way back to the car park, with the morning light getting stronger, we encountered areas of long ago coppiced and pollarded trees, providing evidence of previous management of this delightful woodland.
It really was an excellent morning, expertly led by Peter, and well worth return visits to see the autumn colours as they develop!
Header Image: © Claire Binyon