During springtime, a woodland covered in a carpet of bluebells is a truly beautiful thing to see. As a landscape photographer, capturing them is often an instinctive sensory reaction to their natural beauty in constantly changing light. I typically find that the start or end of day works best, where the light is golden and warms the woods up. Cloud cover helps too, as it diffuses the (harsh) sunlight.
WHERE & WHEN TO FIND THEM
Bluebells are usually found in woodland and particularly like moist, shady conditions. They are often found in ancient woodland as they thrive in the stable conditions provided there. Around half of the world’s bluebell woods can be found in the UK. Bluebells are an important part of the British heritage and well worth a visit. However, please note: Bluebells are a protected species of flower, so even though they look pretty, please do not pick them.
In terms of where to see them (ie the best location), Beech woods are the most common choice because if they are large mature trees then the bluebells will proliferate and there will be lots of space to produce uncluttered shots. I’m very lucky that close to me are at least 3 woodlands that produce a stunning display of bluebells each year. 2 of them are very popular with dog walkers, photographers and ramblers; Badbury Clump in West Oxfordshire (managed by the National Trust) and West Woods at Marlborough (managed by The Forestry Commission).
The best time to spot bluebells is between April and May. They usually bloom in the south first, slowly spreading north towards Scotland as spring progresses. The National Trust has a great article which shows many more sites throughout the country where you can view bluebells in the Spring.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS & TECHNIQUES
If, like me, you fancy taking photos of bluebells, then here’s a few tips I’ve found useful as I continue to learn and improve my woodland photography. Composition can be tricky in such an inherently unorganised place, such as a wild woodland. It can be hard to distill all the elements down into a single coherent image. I’ve heard the saying “Less is more here” and I’ve taken that to heart, trying to scout out a few, simple elements and compose them rather than trying to get everything all into a single frame.
Digital photography, particularly when employing a large memory card, means I have the advantage of deploying as many techniques as I can for each image I decide to take. I’ve tried shooting some scenes with a small aperture (typically F/16) to give me a large depth of field and keeping all the scene in focus. But before I re-compose my shots, I shoot the same scene again with a much wider aperture (typically F/4) and this doubles my production from any given scene. I then add in the possibility of using a polariser filter, different exposure times, and even switching out different lenses for varied focal lengths. All of these techniques may sound like hard work, but it actually makes the whole outing more interesting and more enjoyable for me. It also means I generate quite a lot of images from each position I take up before moving on. It also maximises my opportunities when I get back to my office and import the RAW files into Lightroom (my post-processing application of choice).
When it comes to composing woodland shots, I’ve found that keeping quite low to the ground, especially with wide angle shots produces the best results. I do my location research before heading out to my chosen setting. When I look at images online, I can sometimes find there is a sense of detachment created by the image having a small un-interesting foreground. I try and capture a “reach out and touch it” look, so this means getting down low and close to the foreground subject. This technique doesn’t always work for landscape shots, but for woodland scenes (particularly with bluebells) I’ve found it to be a tried and trusted technique.
One of the aspects I enjoy most about photography is sharing my photos and having people view my work. Whether or not this leads to selling a print, the nice feeling I get from having someone like, share or comment on one of my pictures is a very pleasant experience. You can follow me on a number of Social Media platforms, notably Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. I particularly like Flickr to showcase my work as it enables me to upload HI-RES images, and there’s an added bonus about getting one of my images into their EXPORE feature every now and then. One of my most recent shots, taken in West Woods, was EXPLORED earlier this week. It’s amassed a staggering 17,000+ views and been ‘faved’ and commented on by over 700 people. Why not check out the shot for yourself, and while you’re there maybe you’d like to glance through the rest of my portfolio.