The time for bluebell photography is just around the corner. In this tutorial we explain when to take pictures of bluebells, where to find them and how to set up your camera for the best results.
You have to be watchful at this time of year, because it’s almost time to go down to the woods – not for the teddy bears’ picnic, of course, but for something much more inspiring than that… it’s time for bluebells!
Their wonderful carpets of blue and green are one of the signs of spring, and make for fantastic photos.
Depending on seasonal temperatures and how far south you are, there’s a short window from about mid-April to the end of May during which you can see bluebells. With this year’s mild winter in the UK they may be early, so don’t miss them!
One of the joys of spring in Britain is walking through a woodland to enjoy the birdsong, smell the scented air, see the wildlife and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
An established beech wood is best for photographs, as you get tall, straight trees with little undergrowth and not many offshoots or branches protruding from trunks.
You ideally want an open aspect to the east or west side of the woods where you can shoot towards a low sun that’s not too strong.
One bit of advice, though: try to stay on the path and don’t trample the blooms, so others can enjoy them too.
Live by the motto, ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’ – and have fun! For this tutorial we went down to Micheldever Woods in deepest Hampshire. Here’s how we got on…
How to photograph bluebells
01 Camera setup
When you’re in the woods photographing bluebells you’ll want to use a low ISO for quality and a narrow aperture to capture a great depth of field.
You’ll need a tripod for those long shutter speeds, and to get maximum benefit from a tripod you’ll need a remote release.
A hotshoe spirit level is also useful. Woods are often muddy places, and a kneeling mat or plastic sheet will help keep you clean. You may also want to wear your wellies!
02 DSLR settings
For an image that you’re going to blur, you could use almost any ISO setting because noise won’t show up. Since we wanted to also capture some lovely bluebell images that wouldn’t be blurred, we chose Raw capture and ISO 100 for the quality.
We also went for a narrow depth of field with f/22 and adjusted the shutter speed to obtain our necessary exposure. We manually focused the lens on the nearest tree using Live View.
03 Lens choice
Which lens you use is a personal choice based on your location. The usual technique is to shoot wide and low to the ground to include lots of blooms close to the lens, but if the flowers are a little sparse try a long lens: shoot higher, and use its perspective compression to stack the bluebells so they look more dense.
We were lucky with our carpet of blooms, so went with a 24mm on a full-frame body, equivalent to 15mm on an APS-C model.
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