Where to Photograph Bluebells in the UK
Whenever Britain runs a 'Favourite Flower survey', Bluebells rate very highly on the list, which is quite appropriate as Britain is said to contain more than half the worlds population of Bluebells. They usually flower in April and May each year depending on their location and the weather conditions.
Within the UK countryside some feel that the native British Bluebell is at risk, due to a number of factors but including the destruction of it's native woodland habitat for agriculture or being converted to coniferous woodland, but also the threat of interbreeding with the Spanish bluebells which were introduced into British garden's in the 17th century and since the 20th century have escaped into the British countryside. This has resulted in one in six bluebells seen in our woodlands today being a mixture of British, Spanish and a hybrid of the two.
In recent years the Natural History Museum ran an annual survey of bluebell populations within the UK. Members of the public were asked to help search for bluebells, in their area or when out and about to help them identify where they are. They built a picture of the distribution of British Bluebells and when and where they first flower across the country.
The blue colour of the bluebell is a challenge to photograph, just like purple. It is achievable if done correctly, and when out on location photographing bluebells an essential tool is your white balance target, whether that be a piece of grey card or one of the many manufactured targets you can purchase today such as the Lastolite EzyBalance.
Before taking your picture take time to set up the White Balance (WB) using your camera's PRE for the different lighting conditions you come across, they are not going to move on and you will be more than pleased with your results when you return to your computer with the limited amount of editing you will need to do. We have a range of articles specifically on white balance and colour management, see links below.
The best type of day is a bright still one, so that the heads stay still, and not too much sunshine will give the blues a much deeper colour. Bluebells are found predominantly in woodlands, but can also be found at other locations such as grassland, heath, scrub, sea cliffs and hedge banks.
By their very nature woodlands tend to be dark especially once the leaves are on the trees, so from this perspective if you can, you need to visit before the trees are totally covered in leaves. This can be difficult to judge and it might be that you need to visit your preferred spot a number of times until you get the right conditions to capture them. If you happen to come across a carpet of them at the coast, whilst out walking then the sun is likely to be your biggest problem, so position yourself to cut down the most sun you can, and make sure you have used the PRE setting on your camera so that you capture the colours correctly at source and then you can always boost the colours in editing afterwards. If you're trying to do a macro shot then try using something or someone, if you're not on your own, to block out some of the direct sunlight, but watch out for shadows, this can alter the colours and it will be necessary to do another PRE setting.
Finding Bluebell locations
Bluebells can be found in very many woodlands throughout Britain and driving around many areas like the Cotswolds, Forest of Dean, and many others, as well as taking woodland walks you are going to come across them at the right time.
There are some places which have become particularly well known, such as Micheldever Woods in Hampshire, and my favourite location is in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, at Staple Edge Wood in the Soudley Valley.
To find a location a bit more local to you you may find our Bluebell Locations lists of help, which lists some of the more well known sites we have been able to identify. If you know of any that we have not included then please let us know and we will add them for everybody else to share.
The following is a list of articles specifically on white balance, colour management and how to set PRE. Take a look you may find some interesting techniques and methods you could use to help get that bluebell photograph with impact.
You may also find the following of help:
visitwoods.org.uk The Woodland Trusts special Woodland Website that incorporates the woods owned and managed by itself, but also those of the Forestry Commission, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and the National Trust.
Natures Calendar Survey A site also managed by the Woodland Trust, but looks more at the wildlife and nature in the UK. Is the home for volunteers to record the signs of the seasons where they live, and it is open to anyone to take part. There are links to a free downloadable nature identification booklet as well as other free wildlife guides, forms for recording as well as a link to submit your findings. This particular link goes to their Bluebell Fact page.