Here's the latest from ace photographer and naturalist, Tom Mason. We had some debate about featuring bluebells in April issue of Nature's Home due to them already being out by the time the magazine hits doormats next week. However, based on the fact that they were still only in bud in Wayland Wood, Norfolk on Sunday when I visited looking for rare plants, I'd say the timing is spot on. Here's Tom to get you in the mood for these iconic woodland flowers and some of his glorious camera work.
With April here, spring is certainly in the air, a nice change from those long evening and short days. As we enter into spring the natural world is once again starting to brim with new life, flowers are starting to open and the first bees are flitting between them excitedly. As a photographer it’s the perfect time to dust of the camera and stir some creativity into your work and one species that always proves to be a great challenge, has to be that wonderful emblem of spring, the Bluebell.
In the UK we are truly blessed with these wonderful plants, with over 50% of the entire population of the species being found on our little island. Part of the Lilly family, bluebells grow early to absorb as much light as possible before the canopy of the ancient woodland above forms. This allows them to replenish the nutrients in their bulbs before being shaded out by the leaves above.
An incredible plant, bluebells are also being studied due to a number of their properties that scientist hope will help to develop and improve some cancer medications.
Bluebells flower between mid April and mid May but make sure you are prepared ahead of time. Scouting location on foot, after researching online or speaking to local naturalists, you can easily stack up a number of possible locations for producing images.
A few excellent locations to try include -
- Blickling Estate's Great Wood, Norfolk
- RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk
- Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire
- Emmetts Garden, Kent
- Serpentine Wood at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
- Packwood House, Warwickshire
- Skelghyll Woods, Ambledside, Cumbria
- Godolphin Orchard, Cornwall
- Standish Wood,Gloucestershire
- Woodland behind Abermawr Beach, Pembrokeshire
- Newton Wood at Roseberry Topping, Yorkshire
Photographing bluebells can often be a difficult task so take your time. Firstly walk around your location taking time to not step on the precious plants and keeping to footpaths in order to not disturb the habitat. Look for interesting compositions and dense areas of flowers to give vibrant results.
Most people will often reach for their wide angle for photographing bluebells, but often this can result in the flowers looking to be spread out, reducing the impact. Instead try to work with a telephoto, focus in on areas of the woodland to accentuate the colours and forms.
Move in close and identify single flowers within a patch, working with the individual plants to show the subtle details. Remember that if you are working with a macro lens and a single flower, any movement can ruin a shot, so use a tripod and a fast shutter speed to freeze any possible movement caused by wind. If you need some more light, try using a reflector to throw some additional fill light onto your subjects.
Of course sometimes adding movement to an image can add a great effect and with bluebells you can really paint a wonderful scene. Slow your shutter speed down to around 1/15 or 1/20th and then pan upwards with the lines of the trees to create painterly shots. Getting it right often requires many repeats!
Bluebells are a wonderful subject to work with and we are truly so lucky to have them in abundance in the UK. Our ancient woodlands are a precious reminder of the wooded landscape that used to cover this land and spending time in these special places is not only fantastic for photography, but a humbling and throughly enjoyable experience!
Get out there and get shooting! If you would like to share some of your shots, why not tweet me @tommasonphoto ? If you are interested in checking out more of my work, please head over the my website at www.tommasonphoto.com