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  • Chris Nowell

Photographing bluebell season


Wooden bridge leading you into a bluebell woodland
Bluebell Bridge


Only a few weeks from now, we will be back in the local woodlands enjoying that morning chorus along with that sweet smell and colourful carpet of bluebells.

In that regard, here are a few helpful tips to get you started.


Preparation


If you're fortunate enough to have a local woodland nearby, you're already one step ahead for your photography adventures. As we approach the end of April and the beginning of May, the early sunrise offers a perfect opportunity for dedicated landscape photographers. Having a local spot saves you time and effort on travel, allowing you to focus more on capturing stunning shots. If you don't have a woodland close by, now is the time to scout for potential locations while the trees are still bare. As we transition into April, you'll start to see hints of green and blossoms emerging, signaling the perfect time to lace up your boots and explore. Walking around your local woodland now will help you familiarize yourself with the area before it transforms into a picturesque scene in just a few weeks.

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When preparing for a photo shoot in a local woodland, it's crucial to consider the Sun's position, especially during sunrise. There's nothing worse than trekking out only to miss the golden hour due to the Sun being hidden behind a hill. Utilize smartphone apps or a good old compass to track the Sun's path. Test out locations during the day to ensure a flat area with a picturesque woodland and a carpet of bluebells, all while avoiding lens flare.


Whenever possible, a local woodland should be visited after rain. The water droplets could produce lots of nice atmosphere, and if you are lucky enough, you may even encounter some fog or mist. The green leaves will also be slightly shinier due to the water.



Use a tripod





It is inevitable that there will be times when the use of a tripod is awkward. If you are low to the ground or off balance, a quick snap will suffice. However, I would always recommend the use of a tripod in most cases. I use a number of Vanguard tripods, which offer a wide range of angles, both high and low. Having composed my shot, I can step back a bit from the camera and ensure that I am 100% satisfied with the shot before using a tripod and a self-timer or cable release for 100% stability.


Lens




Tripod and camera with lens
Fuji film camera and lens


It is possible to capture a wide shot of the bluebell carpet with a wide-angle lens, but it tends to spread the bluebells out and thus reduces their impact. A telephoto lens, such as a 70-200mm, shortens perspective and compresses the view. The bluebell carpet appears even denser as a result of this appearance of more bluebells than there actually are. It can be used effectively in patchy bluebell woods to create the illusion of a thicker carpet, while simultaneously appearing to bring the trunks of the trees closer together. Experiment with several lenses. If you have a fish-eye lens, try macro shots and photograph individual flowers (but watch for movement caused by wind). Come up with an image that is different from everyone else's



Composition



Woodland clearing surrounded by bluebells
Dark bluebell woodland



When exploring the woodland for photography, take your time to observe every detail and angle for the best shots. Experiment with different heights to capture unique perspectives, but always be mindful not to trample on the flowers. Aim for tidy compositions following the rule of thirds and look for leading lines to enhance your images. Remember, it's better to take your time and capture a great shot than rush and miss the beauty around you. Also always think about sidelight. All this simply means is try not to shoot into the Sun if it can be avoided. Instead position yourself to the side of the Suns positioning to enhance the shadows and avoid that dreaded lens flare.


Exposure




Old trees in the morning son
Ancient woodland

When it comes to nailing the exposure in your photos, the histogram is your trusty sidekick. It's like your exposure compass, guiding you through the brightness levels of your shot from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. There's no one-size-fits-all histogram, it's all about what you're shooting. Just remember, steer clear of those clipped shadows and blown-out highlights – they're the enemies of a well-exposed image. If your camera has that fancy highlight indicator, let it do its thing with its flashy white warning signs. Bluebell woods under the harsh sun? Brace yourself for a contrast battle and consider playing it safe with exposure bracketing. When shooting in RAW, consider 'exposing to the right' to maximize your camera sensor's capabilities. By slightly over-exposing your images, you can capture more detail in the shadows and reduce digital noise. Use exposure compensation to push the histogram to the right without clipping highlights. Be cautious not to overdo it, or you'll lose highlight details. Your images may look a tad overexposed initially, but you can easily adjust the exposure in post-processing. Remember, it's all about getting the best image quality possible, even if it means defying traditional exposure norms. Also remember to concentrate on side light.



Polarising filter






When it comes to photography, using a polarising filter is key, especially for capturing vibrant water scenes and enhancing the colors in woodland shots. I swear by Kase Filters circular magnetic filters with a polariser - they work like magic, boosting vibrancy and contrast while reducing glare. It's like giving your camera a cool pair of sunglasses!


Creativity




A fallen tree in a bluebell woodland
Fallen tree


When it comes to photography, creativity is key. Take your time, explore your surroundings, handle your equipment with care, and use lighting effectively. By approaching your photography in a calm and relaxed manner, you're more likely to capture stunning images. If things don't go as planned, don't worry – there's always another opportunity. Bluebells typically bloom for about two weeks, so make the most of this window. And don't forget, after the bluebells fade, you'll have the chance to photograph wild garlic, which often grows in similar areas. Keep an eye (or nose) out for that distinct garlic scent near rivers or streams.


Wild garlic by the side of the river
Wild garlic



Quick recap

Remember to take your time. Preparation and location scouting early is always going to help.


Use a tripod


Look for as many different types of compositions as you can

Polarising filter


Sidelight in short, avoid shooting into the Sun where possible


Exposure


Try and be creative





Kit used

Fuji film camera


Vanguard tripod and camera bag ( veo Active 53 bag and veo 3+ 303,cbs tripod


Kase Filters magnetic revolution, filters and polariser.


Buffalo systems special 6 shirt


Vanguard affiliate

Cnp10 on all Vanguard Gear.


Chris Nowell Photography

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