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. Your native bluebells have been captured perfectly, they really are hard to get the colour right. And the Spanish ones are very pretty. There should be room for both I think. As for the lady in the wood, you should have said you were looking for the light 🙂

  2. In the film era you had to select your film and lighting conditions carefully. If I recall correctly film has a different response to certain wavelengths of light than the human eye. I suspect that the same applies to digital sensors.

    1. The eye and mind seem able to tune in too in a way that the camera’s sensor can’t. I found some bluebells in a field and took a (fairly distant) picture, but you would never spot them on the picture if you didn’t know they were there.

      1. Since I posted my comment I’ve edited some film shots of Borage flowers and the colour of the flowers depends on the film type and if the flowers were in shade or sunlight.

  3. You did an excellent job of capturing the colour, but I do agree with you in that a lot depends on the light at the time of shooting.

    I must have about 6-7 bluebells images but probably only one shot looks halfway decent for the very reasons you have described.

    Hard to capture just one spray on its own showing off the shape, out in the garden, unless you get down low. Love the 3rd and 4th images which were made up close.

  4. I’ve noticed that some blues and violets are disappointing in photos, mine anyway. You’ve captured the bluebell colours well here. I have a love/hate relationship with the plants (I think mine are a mixture of the two types). They pop up in the middle of other plants and their foliage is dense and heavy, hard on any other plant trying to struggle through. On the other hand, blue flowers of any kind are special, and the plants die down obligingly by mid-spring (i.e., just about now).

    1. Some cameras do particularly badly with blues and reds. I’ve seen lots of deep red peonies in flower in my neighbourhood but I haven’t got a decent picture yet. My iPhone is usually quite good with blue, given flat lighting.

      The Spanish ones in particular have lots of thick leaves. I am hoping to squeeze a few nasturtiums between them but can’t see how I’m going to do at the moment.

  5. Your photographs are lovely and the colours look good. I think there’s always some difficulty in getting flower colours exact because of the limitations of camera sensors and computer monitors etc. I have Spanish bluebells in the garden but they’re not really spreading much – probably because it’s so dry.

    1. You’re right that every monitor is slightly different unless it is calibrated, which mine isn’t. My garden is in Lancashire, which tends to be damp, though this year, it’s been drier.

  6. I, too, have the same problem with violets, but every year I try. Despite my creaky knees, I lie on the ground to take the pictures. Getting up is always a challenge, but artists must suffer. 😉 As for your wonderful, magical bluebells, any way they come out is just fine with me. I never get tired of looking at them.

    1. I was not feeling agile or supple when I got back from photographing them. I nearly forget to post some pictures this year. That would have been a big fail. 🙂

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