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20 Minutes in the Woods

Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania

It wasn’t supposed to rain until late afternoon, but that didn’t stop morning rain.  Krik & I headed out to film some videos like we always do.  A couple lefts, a couple rights, and a couple minutes later we were jingling down the backside of the mountain on a rocky forest road.  As we were approaching the mountain we could see a dark cell in the sky moving towards our nook of the valley.

We rocked to a stop.  The wind had already started turning the leaves upside down.  We made a snap judgement and decided to try and squeeze a video in.  We had only planned to shoot a couple videos, all of them quite simple, but we picked the simplest one and hit the trail.  As we walked through the forest I extended each of the tripod’s legs and Krik read over his notes.

Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania

This would be a test of efficiency.  Krik knew what he wanted to say, I knew how I wanted to frame it, and the cloud clock was counting down to a downpour.  I hit record, Krik clapped his hands then knocked it out.  He finished just in time.  As soon as he said “Later Turtles” the sky opened up.  I grabbed the camera, Krik grabbed his gear and we scurried to the car.  In hindsight we should have just set up a tarp and rode out the storm, but we weren’t playing from a plan, this was all improv.

Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania

The rained beaded on the windshield and slipped downwards grabbing additional drops leaving a trail of conquest.

The smell of the wet forest creeped through my cracked windows.  After brief discussion we decided to head home so I could get to editing, but we agreed to take the long way.

It would loop us out the forest through a valley adorned with Pennsylvania farms, and then we would return to the forest before hitting the outskirts of the burbs.

As we entered back into to the forest the rain had slowed significantly and Krik asked if I wanted to stop and get out for a short spell; to which I obliged.

I exited the car and was 25 steps into the forest when I thought, “I wish I had a jacket.”  To which I then realized, “I do have a jacket!”  I called back to Krik and asked him to grab the rain jacket I keep stowed under my driver’s seat.  I can’t believe I didn’t remember about my car jacket.  I keep it in my car for moments exactly like that. Those times when the unexpected storm pops up.

I slipped on my jacket and continued deeper into the forest.  Actually that makes it sound more dramatic than it was, I walked like 100 paces into the forest and stopped just shy of a cluster of fallen hemlock giants.  It was still raining but was by no means a downpour.

Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania
Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania

The rain drops collected on the shimmering leaves until gravity took lead and pulled them to the earth below.  The forest looked like it was electric.  All of the leaves glistened and vibrated from the falling water.  An aroma known to only those who’ve been in the forest when it rains permeated existence.  I felt like I could hear the moments of silence side stepping the pitter patter of the rain.  Everything played its part so wonderfully.  The forest was a symphony highlight and shadows, sounds and silence.

Naturally I pulled out the camera I was carrying, Samsung Galaxy S6, and started to scan the forest for frames that were representative of the larger setting.  Ideally I would have had a dedicated camera with me, but the rain and haste washed away my sensibilities.  Looking around, I figured it would be a perfect time to shoot some black and white photos.

Black & White fine art nature photography - Pennsylvania

The highlights of the leaves were contrasting beautifully with the dark damp trunks of the trees.  I spun in slow circles waiting for something to catch my eye.  A bead of water on a leaf.  An interesting interplay of ferns.  Anything that would cause me to pause and look closer.

We were only in the forest for 15 – 20 minutes, and I only took a handful of photos, but when we left the forest I felt amazing.  When my foot hit the pavement I felt like Moonlight Graham passing the first base line, like I had just stepped out of a time warp.

I wasn’t particularly stressed when I entered into the forest, but any stressors that were present had been flushed out completely.

Usually people associate a rainout as something negative, something to be avoided, but this one was something else all together.

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Anthony Beaston is a film editor, photographer, designer and writer living just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.