18th May 2013

Great Wood at Blickling is one of the best bluebell woods in Norfolk, and always attracts photographers. I met two other photographers when I was there one early morning this week (see below). Like me, they will have watched the weather forecast for the ideal conditions, and we all arrived early, in my case within an hour after dawn (I think the other two were both there at dawn).

It's important to photograph woods - and especially bluebells - when the light is not too harsh and contrasty. Otherwise, the dynamic range (the range between the brightest highlights and the deepest shadows) will become difficult to manage, even for modern digital sensors, and the colours of the bluebells themselves are likely to be blown out by bright light - they lose all their subtlety and colour saturation. Subtle colours and details look far better in diffused light, so in some ways overcast lighting is ideal. In fact, a dull overcast morning in a bluebell wood, with some dew or recent rain, can produce some great images.

However, it's also good to have some shafts of light coming through the trees, but subtle enough not to destroy the highlights. So, all in all, it has to be early morning when the sun is starting to rise, but hasn't got too high in the sky or too bright. That means you need a weather forecast that promises not too many clouds and some sunlight in the hour or two after sunrise. Oh, and also not too much wind - that can play havoc with woodland shots (although sometimes you can use it to your advantage). (Did you know that landscape photographers are never, ever, completely happy with the conditions? There's always something wrong).

Other important considerations: use a tripod, because the light levels will be low, and also because you need to concentrate very hard on composition. It's very hard to make sense of the chaos in a wood, and the best images are ones with real simplicity. That means homing in on a composition that excludes as much distraction as possible. You can't photograph the whole wood in one image, so anything that doesn't add to the composition needs to be excluded. Photographic composition is the art of deciding what to exclude. All this means you need to work on a tripod so that you are in control of working on the composition.

Try it one morning - it's very relaxing standing in a bluebell wood early in the morning, being "artistic" (perhaps) and communing with nature. And perhaps having a convivial chat with a few other photographers!

Click here to see one of my images from the morning on Flickr

Have a look at the websites of the guys I met.

Pro photographer Jon Gibbs, who also runs a great photographic gallery in Wells, with Gareth Hacon:

And Phil Carpenter, whom I hadn't met before - have a look at the great images on his site: