Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Stories Behind the Images No.1 – Magical Light in the Woods


Welcome to a new feature on the blog for 2012 – a monthly article that explores the stories behind the pictures. This feature will be an excuse to show you some of my favourite images – some old, some new – and to write about them in a little more detail.

I’m hoping that for my regular readers – both here and on our Facebook page – this in-depth approach will be of interest, and for also those new to the site who might be considering whether to commission me to photograph their own family; I hope that knowing a bit more about how and why I take the decisions I do when making these images will help with your choice.

This picture is a recent favourite from the family portrait session that featured in Friday’s blog post, but I held the image back for this piece. During the spell of milder weather before the snow fell, I was able to shot outdoors a lot more than usual – it’s crazy to think that this set of pictures was taken in the middle of winter, and the children aren’t even all wearing coats!

I sure you can guess what attracted me to this spot in the woods – it was the light, streaming down through the trees, which I can only describe as magical. Even without a camera, I would have been bewitched by the sight.

I saw this spot as we were walking back through the woods on our way to the car after a busy morning of den building. I suggested we might stop for a moment so that the children could explore. There was a hole in the ground so we tried to work out what could possibly live there – the older children thought it was badgers, but I’m still convinced it was a Gruffalo! I took a series of shots as the children were poking around with sticks, looking under trees and then walking back to the path. This is my favourite.

I love the light on this image and the fact that I know it is the three siblings but also – because of the anonymity provided by the flare of light – it speaks to me at a deeper level. Yes, it is a portrait of these three children at a particular time at a particular place, but it is also about childhood, about discovery, about wonder and yes, for me, it is about magic.

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