Every year around about the second week in May the UK countryside is alive with a blue blanket of colour.  This moves in a wave from the south of England, reaching the Scottish woodlands about three weeks later.  In a similar way to the cherry blossom in Japan and the autumn colours of New England this annual event in nature brings a people out to experience the beauty and fragrance that is free to enjoy.

Choose the Right Lens

It is so tempting to use a wide-angle lens to show a large area but this does not compress the flowers enough and leads to a less than impressive display of bluebells, however impressive they are in reality.  This photograph was taken on an iPhone and while it shows the bluebells, they are nowhere near as dramatic as they appeared in reality.

bluebell wood
Less than impressive bluebell display
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The correct lens adding depth to the bluebell display

Find a Clean Area of Woodland

Messy photographs are all too easy to produce and it is sometimes hard to find a clean area without debris and fallen trees.  While these can enhance the composition, usually they are just annoying.  Using paths to aid composition can help, winding in from the corner of the frame the path will draw the eye into the image. Sometimes a plant or log can be used to enhance your picture. The photograph below shows a messy bluebell wood.  Some woodland can be ‘gardened’, but others like this really are beyond a bit of light trimming.

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A messy woodland floor that is beyond hope for a bluebell photograph
bluebell sunset
A warm glow and a perfectly placed fern to add to the image!

Getting the Light Right

Getting the lighting correct is a nightmare with bluebells as they change colour with the ambient light.  At sunset they can appear almost golden lilac, at midday they will be a harsh blue.  Getting the correct lighting can be difficult and careful planning of sun position and the layout of the woodland is needed.  Long shadows across the woodland give an atmosphere to the photograph, midday sun takes all of the atmosphere from the scene and leaves just a harsh blue expanse.

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The perfect moment. Planned from the outset. Some things don’t happen by chance!

Macro

Despite the problems with the harsh light of day, it is possible to get some beautiful macro photographs with the bluebells.  Macro shots need more light because of the large aperture.  This can be difficult in low light, but is perfect for midday photography.  Shadows can still be a problem but choose your subject well and nice photographs can be achieved.

beech leaf
A disappointing bluebell moment but getting close made it work.

Other Options

Even if the bluebell photography is not working how you planned, there are always other opportunities.  In our local bluebell woods there was a big surprise with a carpet of white wild garlic and early purple orchids.

wild garlic
Wild garlic was a pleasant surprise

Playing with longer exposures and camera movement can also help well the light and the woodland is not ideal.  By setting a longer shutter speed, mounting the camera on a tripod and moving gently a beautiful blur can be achieved.

intentional camera movement bluebell
Intentional camera movement, blurring the messy woodland floor.

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