Creative Bluebell Photography

At certain times of the year there are seasonal displays of flowers that many of us are tempted to photograph. However, all too often, everyone’s images can end up looking rather similar because most people take the same basic approach. I encourage you to play around with creative bluebell photography so that your photos of bluebells don’t look the same as other people’s. Much of the time, the main approach people take is to try to convey just how many bluebells there were in the woods. So, you might have a woodland shot with lots of spots of blue, something along these lines, maybe:

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Yes, you can get more interesting versions if you go early or late in the day when the light is better, but essentially you see lots of this type of shot. If you’re anything like me, you might start to get bored with this. Also, why take the same shots using your DSLR and expensive lenses that anyone can take using a smartphone? Instead, I propose that we start to think more creatively and find other ways of exploring the bluebells. So, let’s take a look at some creative bluebell photography ideas…

Some of these suggestions you will like more than others. I am simply trying to encourage you to explore creatively and find your own style and ideas. For example, here is a shot of bluebells taken using a wideangle lens from the bottom of the plant looking up:

Creative Bluebell Photography - bluebells from below

This is not the sort of thing you are used to seeing so it stops your viewer in their tracks and makes them look. It also offers an unusual take on a subject, showing the sort of perspective insects might have from the ground. It isn’t the sort of thing that really excites me, but it is a fun thing to explore. You might like to try something inspired by impressionist paintings such as this:

Creative Bluebell Photography - impressionist bluebells

This is achieved by using a slow shutter speed and deliberately moving the lens up and down whilst taking the photo. This creates an intentional blur that almost makes it look like the image is constructed from daubs of paint like an impressionist painting. If you can’t get a slow shutter speed, try using a polariser or other ND filter to darken your scene. It is quite a counter-intuitive technique to use to begin with. After all, normally you are working hard to get things sharp and in focus. So, intentional camera movement (ICM) may feel odd. But, it is worth a try to see if you connect with it. You might also be interested in my blog posts on deliberately out of focus abstract photography or creating blur using movement.

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The above 2 images are very common approaches to more creative bluebell photography using a DSLR. They are achieved by using a telephoto lens (somewhere in the region of 50mm to 200mm) with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or f/1.8). The idea is to make one set of flowers stand out clearly and turn the rest into just colour and texture in a blurred background. If you use a very wide aperture there is the risk that you can’t make anything out from your background at all, so sometimes it is worth experimenting with backing off a bit to strike a balance between softness and giving context to the scene.

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This image shows what you can do when using a wideangle lens with a wide aperture. You can go really close to your main subject and throw some of your background out of focus. This gives a real sense of space and context but also highlights a clear subject. This works best if your subject is a little way in front of the rest of the scene to give some separation. If you like this sort of wideangle approach you might like to read my article on garden photography using a wideangle lens. The next images have been taken from very low down – lying on the ground in fact! One of them has also been processed rather differently:

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These were taken using a 105mm lens with a wide aperture (f/3.2) to enable me to blur the more distant plants. The second image has been converted to monochrome and then toned using blue. This is almost reminiscent of the oriental paintings you sometimes see on china dinner plates and so on. As you can see, the processing changes the feel of the image completely.

If your camera has a built in function allowing multiple exposures, you can try layering them to create interesting effects:

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To finish, here are a couple of my favourite images I’ve done recently using bluebells. The first is a variation on the familiar theme we spoke about above – using a wide aperture. The second is a fashion portrait using the bluebells to add colour and interest.

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So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to creative bluebell photography. This is by no means fully exhaustive. There are other possibilities both in the taking stage and for processing that you can try. Let your creativity free and see what you can come up with!

© Joe Lenton, May 2016

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