The Forest Floor

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Glistening mushrooms, seeking roots, terrestrial seas, coiled ferns & burned fynbos.


The forest floor is a soft place, quiet and unassuming, yet it is rich with drama ever unfolding. In every season, in every tiny patch, a world is unmade and another is becoming. Trees tower above, but eventually they fall, and as they rest the forest floor makes of them a rich tapestry of shape, color and texture: the thick carpets of green moss, the glisten of pale mushrooms, the deep browns of fallen leaves. Like the sea, the forest floor is in constant motion, albeit slow and microscopic. Countless species transform the earth under our hiking boots. The antennae of fungi are visible tips of mycelial networks, endless miles of web that join together the roots of every tree. Through those connections the forest communicates, shares resources, and becomes whole. A coiled fern pushes up and unfurls in the leaf-scattered sunlight while its roots reach in the dark for their neighbors just beneath the forest floor.

The pictures in this collection begin in temperate forest not two hours from New York City and go to Sweden’s bog-forest south of the Arctic Circle, to a rocky scrub forest in the Alps of southern France, and to a hillside of burned fynbos on South Africa’s central coast.

Compass Rose


Darin Wahl is a PhD candidate in sustainability science and a teacher with a lifelong love for wandering and taking photos. His work is an exploration of the human-environment relationship and the struggles of these intertwined worlds to live and thrive. His photos can be seen at instagram.com/dwahl3 and igualtequiero.com.  This photo essay was a finalist for Nowhere’s 2021 Emerging Travel Photographers’ Prize. All photos © Darin Wahl.

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1 Comment

  1. I have always loved forests. After seeing these photos and reading the author’s words I believe I’ll be walking more slowly and looking more deeply!

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