Photographing Bluebells – My 2017 round up

Contrary to popular belief I’m not obsessed with Bluebells – I am obviously quite fond of them, some of the best displays (in terms of sheer quantity) are local to me, they provide many photographic opportunities and are very appealing visually, plus they grow in woods and I do like the odd tree photo! All of the photos in this blog are taken in North Hampshire, and many in places around Micheldever near Winchester, an area with a high concentration of woodland where the native English Bluebell grows, or to give them their scientific name Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

I walk my dog through these woods all year round, it gives me a good local knowledge of where and how the flowers are progressing in their early stages of development. It was during one such stroll earlier in the year that I noticed signs had been erected by the Forestry Commission alerting people to imminent tree felling work, as I wandered I saw more and more trees with painted orange lines on them, the mark of doom! What’s more it wasn’t just one wood, subsequent dog exercising expeditions revealed nearly every bit of woodland that I’ve taken bluebell photos in over the past ten years is destined to be thinned out.

They did the same to another wood nearby a few years ago, it hasn’t recovered yet, there are bluebells growing this year but they’re amongst the remains of cut branches and the land has been gauged by tyre tracks of the machinery they use, the flowers may never recover here, having a 40 tonne truck drive over your head tends to kill most things off! I’m not a sentimental guy, and even though it may sound strange I’m not upset by this, the trees are there for a reason and that is for the wood we all use and benefit from in our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, for me, they’d already started by the time the flowers arrived. Last year nature didn’t work to schedule and the leaves of Beech trees were late, I’d spent a fair bit of time finding compositions in one area that I wanted to go back to and shoot this year, when blues and greens were in harmony so to speak. Guess where they’ve started the logging! Myself and another photographer who had joined me were climbing over felled trees to get to a known spot, in the dark, at 5.30am, when I arrived at one tree it was still there, hurray – but they’d cut everything else down around it, boo.

If I’m honest I don’t really need any more bluebell photos, I’ve got hundreds of perfectly good photographs sitting on hard drives from previous years that I haven’t processed yet, I’ve even got some taken on film. Still I wanted too, and I did, because next year it won’t look the same. I decided to take a variety of photographs using different lenses and styles, even brought out the wide angle at one stage, but opted against trying any alternative methods, I’ve tried it all in the past using ICM (intentional camera movement), Mutiple Exposure, Long exposure and even Infrared, I’ve had a couple of ‘successes’ but none that I felt showed the subject how I’d like so I stuck with using traditional photography.

My ‘campaign’ started on 23rd April with a recce, the bluebells were out in force and looking good, leaves were just starting to show and in a few more days things would be just right, with the right weather that is. Studying the forecast on the night of the 26th showed the temperature was going to plummet, and in the morning it looked sunny, ideal conditions for a bit of mist. I actually had to scrape frost from my windscreen before setting off, arriving in the woods it was cold but clear as a bell, experience has taught me the mist sometimes sneeks into the woods after sunrise, and it was a nice sunrise followed by a little bit of mist on the fringe, enough for me to get a few frames and what is to date one of my best bluebell photos that I’ll include at the end of the post. Without further ado here’s another one from that morning:

Awakening – The fresh green leaves are starting to show on the Beech trees as if the wood has just woken up.

And here are a few I took recently that I like for various reasons, you can see more of my Bluebell photos from this and previous years here: BlueWood

Disciples II – I did two versions of this, couldn’t decide which one I like the most so have published them both.

Catch the fallen – This tree actually fell down in recent gales, but the image has a poignant reference.

Last glimpse – I rarely do sunsets, thought I’d better do a few this year, although hardly seen I’ve included enough of the flowers for a hint of blue as the setting sun catches some grasses on the edge of a hilltop wood.

Vintage blue – another sunset, it’s becoming habit! This evening had a certain feel to it, reminded me of summers gone by, I very rarely process like this but decided to give this shot a slight vintage look, as if it was a faded print taken on film. That was the idea anyway.

Excalibur – I’ve mentioned on a previous blog that I sometimes go back and do the same shot again in different times and conditions, this is one such instance, three attempts, first there was no “light’ whatsoever but I’d seen the idea, second I got the shot but viewing it on my computer I noticed I wanted to alter the composition a bit, third I composed how I wanted, waited for sunlight, preferred it without so waited for sunlight to go, and here’s the result. The idea is that the fallen branch is King Arthurs sword ‘Exalibur’ that he obtained from the Lady in the lake, the bluebells being the water and the fern represents the splash (it was the splash that I recomposed for).

Frond  – One of the things I wanted to get was ferns amongst the flowers, this one was standing dead upright, I tried a few framing options in the viewfinder including having it central in the frame with the option to possibly crop square later, in the end I liked the way the light catches in the corner of this one. It took a number of attempts as there was a gentle breeze and I kept having to re-focus slightly, it was only when zooming in on my LCD screen to check everything was in focus the way I wanted that I realised there’s a caterpillar chrysalis wrapped up on the top part.

The chosen few – I’ve included this photo in the blog to highlight a point I made earlier, I’d done this shot before, nailed it, liked it and had no intention of doing it again, that was until I walked past and saw it “in a different light”

Turning blue – Macro photography, outside in nature, is hard at the best of times, I wanted an extremely narrow field of focus on this, just the very top flower in fact, it was a still day with flat light and perfect for the type of photograph that I desired, even so it took many attempts, one of the others has creeped into the focal plane but I’m very pleased with the result.

Every year, at the end of my local flowering season, I pick a personal favourite that I’ve captured, I couldn’t decide on one this year so have chosen two, ironically one was taken on the first morning and one my last day of shooting them around here.

Enchantment – Taken in a scruffy area on the edge of the woods as the sun shines through the early morning mist, the two Beech saplings catching the light are the subject of attention with a shallow’ish depth of field, the dangling empty branch included at the top is for no other reason than I quite liked it there.

Fern campfire – It’d be a fitting to say that the fern represents a campfire taken late on my last evening of doing bluebell photographs this year, in truth I took it mid morning and it wasn’t the last photo I did that day either, I just thought it looked a bit like a fire and gave it some slightly warmer tones during processing, the sentiment is there though :o)

My photos this year were taken over a period from 27th April to 11th May 2017 – I did 10 trips at various times from dawn to dusk, 7 different woods & 28.6 miles walked.

I know a lot of other photographers read these posts, and some are keen on equipment information, all of the photos included in this blog were taken on a 42mp Sony A7Rii. The photos in my BlueWood gallery have all been taken using full frame digital cameras from either Canon, Nikon or Sony using lenses with a focal length ranging from 16mm – 400mm, using apertures in the range f1.8 – f16, some zoom some prime. Everything is then processed in Adobe Photoshop and I don’t use on camera filters (ND grads) for any of my woodland photography.
Thanks for reading.









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