23/05/13HOW TO SHOOT THEM
Bluebells. The ever popular but slightly clichéd subject for landscape photographers. However you look at them though, they can look fantastic even ethereal if captured using certain techniques. Here, I will show you how including a few hints and tips that I have picked up over the years.
First, you need to find Some.
Although they are a little late this year, they are generally found around early to mid May in woodlands pretty much in all areas of the country. Ask around and keep your eyes peeled when travelling. Flikr is a useful tool for finding them. Simply search your area for 'Bluebells' as a tag and then click on 'recent' at the top left. The really popular and well known locations tend to be busy so look out for small and less well known locations in your travels. I tend to drive around Dartmoor via all the back lanes as I can find my way around with my eyes closed. I have spotted some lovely glades of Bluebells this way.
HOW TO TELL THEM APART
There are two main types. Native and Spanish.
1. Look at the leaves
Native bluebells have relatively thin leaves, around 1-1.5cm wide. Spanish bluebells on the other hand have much thicker leaves, around 3cm wide. The leaves of the Spanish bluebell often have a fleshier feel to them.
2. Look at the flowers
Native bluebells are a distinctive deep blue in colour, whereas Spanish bluebells are often lighter, more pale blue or pink. Look also at the shape of the flowers, the native bluebell flowers curl back at the petal tips whilst those of the Spanish bluebells are splayed. If you get down close, look at the colour of the anthers; these are cream in natives and a pale-blue colour in the Spanish.
3. Look at the architecture
Native bluebells have the flowers concentrated on just one side of the stem, giving them the distinctive nodding, drooping look. Spanish bluebell flowers are on all sides of the flower spike, giving the flower a much more upright appearance.
4. Sniff the flowers!
You should be able to pick up a sweet aroma from the flowers of the native bluebell whilst those of the Spanish bluebell are scentless. Native bluebell woods will be full of the aroma.
Firstly set the camera to Aperture priority and the ISO to 100. This will allow control over
depth of field. Base ISO will give you clean and noiseless images. As woodlands are generally dark places it goes without saying that a tripod is needed.
The available light will affect the 'mood' of the image. Low but strong light will give stronger colours and defining shadows. Flat light, a more pastel look and less shadow.
This was taken in subdued light and the flowers appear more subtle with no harsh shadows.
2. TIME OF DAY
Bluebells are generally more colourful later in the day when the flower heads have opened fully. Early or late in the day adds the benefit of the low sun to side light the flowers and add long shadows from trees.
Use a long lens and zoom in from a distance. Usually over 100mm.
This will compress perspective and make the bluebells look closely packed increasing the ‘carpet effect’. This is especially helpfull with the Native bluebells as they are generally spread more thinly and smaller than the Spanish versions.
These were taken with a long lens zoomed into the scene
The direction of light also affects the appearance and colour. Side lit bluebells will appear more prominent in the image. Front lit appear paler in comparison.
Sids lit in the morning light.
Shadows cast across bluebells add impact. Beech woods are perfect
Look around for other interesting objects in the woods to add to the composition like vibrant green Spring leaves, ponies! and paths or tracks especially winding ones.