Our own woods, Alvecote Wood, is ancient woodland and we are blessed with a good show of bluebells during the spring. Here are just a few photos of the bluebells, which are all native English bluebells, taken over the past couple of weeks.
I am very lucky to be able to run photography workshops both at our own woods and on behalf of the Tame Valley Wetlands Partnership. This pulls together my love of photography with my experience of adult education, and also allows me to visit some very special sites that I may not otherwise have access to.
Recently, I ran an Introduction to Photography workshop for Tame Valley Wetlands at Hams Hall. We were blessed with beautiful weather and an even more beautiful show of bluebells in a woodland that isn’t always accessible to the public. The bluebells were stunning this year, and grow in vast swathes underneath beech and birch trees. Beech is ideal for bluebells because it has a very closed canopy and therefore other undergrowth rarely thrives.
These are some of the photos from those woods on that day.
If you would like to attend a photography workshop at Alvecote Wood, our own woods, please see our Photography Workshops page.
With the warmer weather, we have seen the first butterflies emerging in the woods, as well as the first dragonflies and damselflies. The first spotted on the wing were brimstones, but we now have good numbers of green-veined whites, orange-tip, speckled wood, large white and small white, as well as the rather dusty and ageing peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma which overwintered as adults.
The large red damselflies were the first to emerge, but in the last few days we have also seen azure damselflies coming out, and the first two female broad-bodied chaser dragonflies.
We are also delighted to report a good patch of violet growing in the woods, which we hope will be food plants for the caterpillars of silver-washed fritillary – this butterfly is moving our way, and we have ideal habitat for it. Fingers crossed!
The bluebells are also stunning at the moment – just past their peak, but still putting on a fantastic show. They look particularly wonderful when growing together with clumps of white stitchwort. Red campion is now in flower as well as the first ragged robin near our ponds, and the buttercups are just starting to come out.
The woods are in full leaf now, and the acid-green colours of spring are just wonderful to behold. It all looks quite magical in the evening light.
We have the most fantastic display of bluebells at the woods every year, and every year it is a little bit different. This year we didn’t have a cold winter, and so the brambles did not die back in our main bluebell patch. In consequence, the bluebells in that area are not so good, but in other areas they are surprisingly good.
All our bluebells are English native bluebells. There are probably getting on for a million of them at the woods, and it is quite amazing how they differ in form but also in colour, ranging from an extraordinary deep purple-blue, through all shades of blue, some even with a touch of turquoise, to very pale blue. We even have one pink English bluebell, and one or two white English bluebells.
How do we know that they are English bluebells Hyacyinthoides non-scripta and not Spanish? Well, our bluebells all have narrow leaves, most are bent over at the top, rather than standing tall, they have long narrow flowers with recurved petals, and they have white or cream coloured pollen. Spanish bluebells have broader leaves, stand up tall, have wider flowers with non-recurved petals and tend to have blue pollen.
It is difficult to capture the feeling of being in and among the bluebells on camera. Simple images don’t do justice to the intensity of the blueness, nor do they really capture the delicate beauty of these flowers.
There is nothing for it but to get down and get dirty in the mud. I tend to photograph bluebells lying on the ground, where I can get good support for the camera. I try not to disturb other bluebells, and this does limit my ability to get good angles sometimes. I try to use selective depth of field. Depending on how far the subject is from the background, I use f stops somewhere between 4.0 and 8.0, and always my Canon 100mm macro lens. I also try to get a good background clear of clutter – either with bokeh from the light coming through the trees, or a clear dark or light background. Exposure can be anywhere from +2 to -2 stops, and compensation is really important in the dappled light of the woods. Finally, post processing is important to capture the feeling of being among the bluebells – I generally use Lightroom to tweak the curve and get the result I am looking for.
I feel very privileged to have such a wonderful selection of these beautiful flowers to choose from, despite that fact that I am allergic to them and they give me heroic doses of hay fever whenever I try to photograph them! Bluebells are common in Britain, but rare worldwide.
If you would like to help survey bluebells in Britain, and to see the extent to which non-native and hybrid bluebells have spread, please fill in the Natural History Museum survey http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/british-natural-history/survey-bluebells/ – anybody can do this, and it will be of great help.
Happy New Year, and thank you to everybody who voted in the poll for our photo of the year. It was a very close vote in the end but we have a winner – and it is the photo of the common blue butterfly roosting at dusk.
Runner up was the sunset shot.
And in third place was our lovely white bluebell
I’m hoping for another wonderful photographic year at the woods in 2014.