How to photograph Bluebells
It’s that magical time of the year soon when the English forests are carpeted with bluebells. They turn the forests into places that look like a fairy-tale. Bluebells bloom from around mid-April till late May. Best time to photograph them is when most Bluebells have flowered, but before they start to wilt. The time will depend on your region and the amount of sunshine in April, but I found that the best time for me to photograph them is the end of April. The time gap for the best bluebells is quite small and if you don’t get the results you were hoping for, you will have to wait till next year. If you are planning to photograph bluebells this year, and especially if it’s your first time, I have prepared a quick guide for how to get the best out of this beautiful flower.
Finding a good place can be difficult. Most often private gardens advertise their bluebells but normally, you can’t access the park at sunrise and sunset hours. While you can still photograph the flowers during the day time, a soft warm light will usually prove to work best. That being said, it’s best to find a small woodlandwhich is open all the time. The woodland should be big enough to have that blue colour stretch across the landscape. I found that forests with a flat ground generally work better and are easier to work with. Photographing at the edge of woodland will give you the most amount of light while going deeper into the woodland will limit those low sun rays. If you think that you can’t find good enough place then look deeper! The most visited place in my area wasn’t actually as impressive as a small woodland no one knew about.
Composition in woodlands (and outside of the bluebell season too) is all about finding order amongst the chaos. Woodlands tend to be very busy, so the biggest challenge is finding something that stands out. A fern framed by two trees or a path that’s used as a leading line. If you are having trouble finding these compositions, don’t be afraid to use people in your compositions. Or, simply – embrace the chaos like in the image below. Notice though, that I have still had plenty of fog to mask out the background and add depth, I don’t think this composition would work as well if the fog wasn’t there.
Fog is going to be your best friend in woodland photography because it simplifies the images adds a lot of depth and mystery.
Try shooting into the sun, as the blown-out highlights can also help with simplifying the image.
Shoot at a low aperture. For me, woodland images don’t necessarily need to be very sharp. As long as your subject matter is in focus. Shooting at a lower aperture will help to add the dreamy, soft feeling.
Focus on everything but the flowers! Bluebells are beautiful and can be distracting, very often photographers will make these flowers the main subject matter, and this can lead to composition not being as strong as it can be (I am definitely guilty of this too!). Just because you have bluebells in your images, it doesn’t mean you have good images. Focus on finding other interesting elements in the landscape and use bluebells to frame and add to the composition, not the opposite.
Shoot close-ups, If the weather doesn’t pan out as you have planned – photograph the bluebells up close. Even if you don’t have a macro lens. The image below was taken on the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8. Most importantly, have fun with it and don’t forget that Bluebells are protected and no matter how badly you want to go off the path – just don’t! Work with the limitations and take it as a challenge.