Spring Bluebells: West Woods Marlborough

It’s been almost two months since I last took the camera out for a proper shoot as various things (weather, time and a pulled back muscle) have gotten in the way…so I have definitely been itching for it! Luckily inspiration was dumped on my lap as pictures of spring bluebells were popping up all over Instagram*, so I decided to head out to West Woods near Marlborough to get out of the house, catch some fresh air and hopefully get some shots…oh and my Dad came too!

*cheeky plug, you can follow me on Instagram here!

My Dad lining up a shot

My Dad lining up the shot!

The type of shot I had in mind was some nice golden sun rays poking through the canopy and hitting the bluebells in the morning light, maybe with some mist if we were really lucky! This meant an early start, so we headed off at 6am.

Unfortunately it was overcast meaning the effect I wanted wasn’t possible, but it did mean that we had nice low contrast, even lighting. In woodland where there are many pockets of shadow, this can actually be a benefit to making sure everything is well lit and detailed.

Using the tracks as a leading line

Using the tracks here as a leading line

I’ve never been out to see the bluebells before – let me tell you it is definitely worth getting out to see! In my Dad’s words, you get the sense that the trees are coming up out of the water, and it’s just really relaxing. It was also nice that we were basically the only people in the woods as we were there so early!

I set this shot up with a really wide angle (around 17mm) to emphasise the stump in the foreground and really get the detail of the moss in the shot. The foreground is within 1 meter of the front of the lens, so to make sure everything was sharp front to back I focus stacked 3 images.

Mossy tree stump

Mossy stump with amazing detail!

Until recently I hadn’t been able to achieve that distorted field of view as I didn’t have a wide angle lens, but this Nikon 16-35 really knocks it out of the park. It’s also tack sharp…as you can tell I’m very pleased with the result!

Stopped to take a shot

Lining up the shot, again!

Although we’d found a few decent pockets of bluebells we hadn’t seen the thick carpet of flowers that you’d see in the magazines. Luckily while we were stopped to take a shot (see above) a local dog walker came by and said hello, and after a quick chat pointed us in the right direction.

What he led us to was stunning – an area of the wood which was densely covered in bluebells as far as you could see. I decided to break out the 70-200 to get more compression and a shallower depth of field to emphasise my subjects better….

Breaking out the 70-200 🙂

The shot below is quite simple, using the moss covered tree as the primary subject and allowing the background to fall out of focus.

Mossy tree in focus

Mossy tree in focus

I can’t quite get over just how sharp the D810 is in combination with the 16-35 and 70-200 – I love it!

The final shot of the day for me was similar to the one above and actually is the same tree, however I decided to make the character of the tree the primary subject.  The way it curves up and has an old, gnarled branch reaching out like an arm really stood out to me.

What was difficult with this shot was achieving enough separation with the background to not get distracted by it. I shot wide open, and also used some Photoshop trickery (specifically ‘the Orton effect’) to make the main tree stand out as much as possible. I chose black and white because for what I was going for, the colour just served as a distraction.

Black & white gnarled tree

Black & white gnarled tree

All in all it was a great morning’s shoot and it was great to finally get out with the camera. The bluebells are a great subject and something I would highly recommend getting out to see them while they are about (until mid-end of May).

Yes the conditions could have been better, but I got some shots I am happy with, I got to practice with the camera and explore a new area, so I would say it was highly successful!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! See you on the next one!

Andy 🙂

#spring #marlborough #bluebells #nature #flowers

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