Taking Pictures of Bluebells

English bluebells in Sunnyhurst Woods
English bluebells

Photographing bluebells presents several problems: they dance on their stems in a gentle breeze; they often grow in dappled shade which is magical on the eye but blinding to the camera; their blue appears a bit insignificant from further away; and they are usually a very different colour to how they appear. The first two shots are fairly accurate for colour.  

English bluebells with brambles and ferns
English bluebells with brambles and ferns

We have lots of English bluebells in Sunnyhurst Wood in Darwen, plus some in open fields and the edges of moorland, if you know where to look. I always choose a day to visit them when least wind is forecasted, and where I might have a little cloud cover, then take pictures early or late in the day. Sadly, more cloud often coincides with a stronger breeze. 

Having tried to allow for nature, I look for a flower that exemplifies one of the characteristics I find most charming. With bluebells, it’s the classic arc shape, like a shepherd’s crook, that happens where all the bells hang open together pulling down the stem. Oh and I like the backwards curl of the petals when the flowers are open.

Arching English bluebell in shade
English bluebell in shade

In full sun, bluebells seem to pale, in shade, my iPhone doesn’t focus as well and in contrasty light, the bluebells appear to shine, which is not quite as good as it sounds. I experimented by looking for bluebells in a shady spot, but lit up by a stray ray of sun, filtered through the trees.

That’s why in the middle of the bluebelliest section of the wood, when a lady asked me what I was looking for, I ought really to have answered ‘bluebells’, which would have puzzled her. I was actually just standing aside, looking down the hillside, so she could pass. 

Spanish bluebells with hardy geraniums
Spanish bluebells

I don’t have to go anywhere at all to see Spanish bluebells: they have pretty much taken over my garden. Spanish bluebells have more open bell shapes and the petal edges always seem much paler on camera than they do to the eye.

Narrow English bluebell flower with a broader Spanish one
English bluebell flower (l) Spanish (r)

If you want to know more about the two types, check out my earlier post: English or Spanish Bluebells?

Vase of Spanish bluebells
Bluebells in Mama’s blue tumbler

I brought some of the Spanish ones inside to see if I could get the colour a bit bluer. Standing back seemed to help.

We’ve long been told that Spanish bluebells are a threat to the wild ones, but the latest research suggests the threat may go the other way. The habit of the English ones is very evident in  plants that have grown themselves from seed in pots in my back yard. My seedlings have the flower colour and shape of the Spanish ones and the sparseness of the English ones, which could be argued to be the worst of both worlds. In truth, I love them all.

Shared for Cee’s Flower of the Day. Her picture is a wonderfully ruffled iris.


31 Replies to “Taking Pictures of Bluebells”

  1. Love that picture of the nodding English Bluebells in shade. And now I have a clear idea of the difference between English and Spanish Bluebells.

    1. They are both great garden plants, so long as you don’t find their foliage too messy afterwards. Many gardens have one or the other here.

  2. I look at these photos and wonder how the color could be any better — such blues are a joy forever, and rarer than that day in June. (Did I mix my poets?) Finding proper blues for the garden is not easy. That batch of Spanish bluebells looks like a raucous bunch, though; I’d be wary of them. Will the bluebells still be blooming when the nasturtiums bloom? If so, will you show us? The combination sounds wonderful. A lovely arrangement with the tumbler — are those paper lilies?

    1. I fear you did, but no harm done. I was thinking the more accurate the colour the better. The Spanish ones are decidedly raucous and are busy forming giant seed heads to produce more of their kind as I write. And, yes, those are paper lilies with fairy lights in them. Sadly the bluebells will be long gone by the time the nasturtiums flower. They are but pairs of leaves at the moment.

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