Photographing Bluebells. A photo scrapbook of options.

Here are some great websites for seeking out Bluebell woods near you in 2014 or beyond.

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/bluebells

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/bluebells/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355828294779/

Some photographic subjects I return to often, taking pictures weekly or daily. But my thoughts only turn to Bluebells once we are into April, the clocks have sprung forward and the days are getting longer. Some years I may only walk up to the Bluebell woods once or twice before finding myself distracted elsewhere in the valley. The tree leaves grow thicker and the Bluebells fade for another year. This year I’ve wandered more often up to the woods and found myself thinking if I could do anything different photographically.

Over a few years I’ve tried some different photographic styles and techniques in the Bluebell woods. I thought I’d share a photo scrapbook of the options I’ve explored, none of which are fully successful. But them form the foundations for future photographic ideas to be tried out next year.

One thing that I’ve learnt from looking over the pictures below is how tough it is to get a consistent colour and look to Bluebell pictures over different days / years. I’ll purchase a Grey card to check the white balance for next time !

The act of walking through a Bluebell wood is always memorable, the expanse of vivid colour, the smell, the sounds of Spring… But can it really be captured with a camera, at least by me. Maybe next year.

If you do visit the Bluebell woods, enjoy them but please keep to the footpath.

Panorama:
Best to orient the camera vertically and use a tripod but todays stitching software is good enough to make a fine panoramic image without. Some camera’s (latest iPhone for example) will do this in the camera app for you. I like a wide image but not the really wide version which makes for an odd image format. At the really wide angle the Bluebells lose their feeling of density too.
3 frame panorama. Nikon D300, 80-400 f4.5-5.6 at 80mm.
4 frame panorama. Nikon D300, 80-400 f4.5-5.6 at 80mm.
4 frame panorama. Nikon D800E, 28 f1.8 at f8.
16 frame panorama. Nikon D300, 24-85 f3.5-4.5 at 24mm.

Focus Stack:

You’ll need a tripod and some discipline when shooting this. and You will also need some software to assemble the stack on the computer. Bluebells are so densely packed together it can take some trial and error (lots of error) to get a useful series of images to stack correctly.
10 frame image stack. Nikon D800E, 70-200 f4 at 110mm.
Blurred:
Bluebells with a blur. You will want a fast lens or a long lens to get this effect. Can look dreamy or filmic but can also just look like a big blurry smudge.
Nikon D300. Sigma 500 f4.5 at 4.5.
Nikon D3S. Sigma 85 f1.4 at 1.4.
Really Blurred:
Moving the camera intentionally when shooting. I really like the result of this but you’ll have to try a few versions before you get something you like.
Nikon D300. Sigma 500 f4.5 at f9.
Nikon D300. Sigma 500 f4.5 at f9
High Angle:
It’s always worth trying something different, so how about lofting your camera high above your head using a monopod or tripod. It’s creates a distinctly different perspective but is nearly impossible to frame accurately. It’s luck and perseverance rather than skill. It can create a pleasing picture though. I’ll be trying this more next year !
Bluebells high angle. Sigma DP2 Merrill.
Low Angle:
Getting low to the woodland floor gives an interesting perspective, just don’t squash any of the Bluebells. You will lose a lot of the background but gain focus on individual flowers.
Nikon D800E, 85 f1.8.
Nikon D800E, 300mm at f2.8.
Nikon D300, 80-400 f4.5-5.6 at 400mm.
Early in the Morning:
It’s always worth getting up early in the morning for photography !
Nikon D300, Sigma 500 f4.5 at 4.5.
iPhone 4.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 85 f1.4 at 1.4.
Late in the Evening:
And it’s always worth staying up till last light for photography !
Sigma DP2 Merrill. 30mm at f9.
Sigma DP2 Merrill. 30mm at f2.8.
Long Exposure:
I’ve tried the long exposure trick a few times. It’s quite tough to avoid it looking like you just took a blurry picture. One problem I’ve encountered is that my neutral density filter is not completely neutral.
Sigma DP2 Merrill. 30s at f9.
Macro and close up:
Getting up close to the subject really slows down the photography and is great fun. Even better if you can add a Bee into the picture too !
Nikon D300, 80-400 f4.5-5.6 at 400mm.
Sigma DP2 Merrill with Canon 250D close up filter.
Sigma DP2 Merrill with Canon 250D close up filter.
Wide Lens:
Having owned a couple of wide lens – 14mm and 20mm – I thought I’d of taken lots of Bluebells pictures with them. After searching the Lightroom catalogue it turns out I’d hardly used the wide lens at all in the Bluebell woods. A really wide lens is a very attractive option but difficult to use successfully … but I should of tried with the 14mm at least once ! Here’s a couple of 35mm snaps.
Nikon D800E, 35 f1.4 at f5.6
Nikon D800E, 35 f1.4 at f5.6
Long Lens:
I’m always hoping for a Fox picture in the Bluebell wood and I’ve seen one running around a few times. No wildlife picture yet but the Bluebell pictures created with a long lens are excellent. The danger is that you can get unsightly and distracting elements in the foreground that are heavily blurred. You’ll need a tripod too.
Nikon D300, 500mm f4.5 at f9.
Nikon D300, 500mm f4.5 at 4.5.
Nikon D800E, 70-200 f4 at f9 and 165mm.
HDR:
I’ve been using the D800E’s in camera HDR function for some shots and really like the effect it can give. You’ve got to choose a still day to utilise it fully – the length of the exposure can introduce blur. This picture used the D800E’s in camera HDR function and I also used a ND filter to lengthen the exposure – so the blur is intentional in this picture !
Nikon D800E, 70-200 f4 at 116mm and f9.
Infrared:
Hey you’ve got to try stuff out ! I’ve got a IR converted Canon S110 for some other projects so why not take some snaps. The light was very flat but it might be interesting with some light falling through the tree’s and illuminating patches? Converted to black and white and slight copper tone added. Worth experimenting more with.
Canon Powershot S110 IR converted.
Canon Powershot S110 IR converted.
Canon Powershot S110 IR converted.
Canon Powershot S110 IR converted.
Canon Powershot S110 IR converted.
Flash:
I know nothing about flash but it’s worth experimenting with. The Canon Powershot S90 picture uses the camera’s Macro function with the flash for an interesting result.
Nikon D300, 24-85 f3.5-4.5 at f9. Flash.
Nikon D300, 24-85 f3.5-4.5 at f9. Flash.
Canon Powershot S90. Flash.
Creative Post Process:
Here the possibilities are even more endless than what you can do with the camera ! These are some very quick creations. I’m not sure I would want to print anything with this amount of manipulation but it’s fun to play.
Nikon D300, 80-400 f4.5-5.6 at 400mm.
Nikon D800E, Nikon 35 f1.4 at 5.6.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 85 f1.4 at 1.4.

Well those are the options I’ve tried so far. Next year the aim must be to do better !

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