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Bluebells at Middleton Woods

The May Bank holiday marks the arrival of spring. It’s a celebration that has been going since the days of Ancient Rome! Floralia was a festival celebrated by the ancient Romans, the festivities occurred between  28th April and 3rd May and was held in honour of goddess Flora (goddess of flowers, vegetation, and fertility).

Today the Spring Bank Holiday is enjoyed across the UK in a wide variety of ways. Some places will have welcomed Morris Dancers over the recent bank holiday, other places will have put on fairs and carnivals, some people will have gone out walking, while others may have enjoyed simply staying at home.  To me, it felt quite fitting to be spending this spring bank holiday exploring the floral spectacle currently on show at Middleton Woods.

Bluebells are one of our most iconic flowers of spring. They start to appear as the weather starts to warm up and when Spring is underway. They are most welcome sight to many as they point to warmer, brighter times just around the corner!

Not only does this symbolic plant evoke much inspiration but the sight of a woodland floor carpeted with bluebells is enough to lift spirits of most morose of folk. You can see and experience these spectacular sights right now in a woods near you! The Visit Wood Website has a Bluebell Woods web page that lists over 1300 bluebell woods through out the UK and is a brilliant resource.

Attempting to photograph the scenes like the ones currently occurring in woods throughout the country can sometimes seem a little overwhelming. It can be tricky knowing where to begin, simply because there’s so much going on!

Over the Spring bank holiday weekend I took several trips over to Middleton Woods with Alfie (our dog) in order to create a guide that might help folk get some great photos from this year’s yield of bluebells. But don’t worry if you miss the bloom, many of these tips can be applied to other natural landscapes and environments too!

Alfie (lurcher) dog portrait in Middleton Woods, Ilkley

Get Close

When you first encounter a sea blue flowers covering the woodland floor it’s so awe inspiring the easiest thing to is lift your camera in front of your face and take a picture. The assumption is that this all looks amazing, so the photo is bound to look amazing too. More often than not this kind of approach will result in disappointing photographs. In order to capture the beauty of the scenery around us we need to work at capturing the best from our surroundings. We need to understand what is making this experience so extraordinary and inspirational. The best way to begin is to look a little closer; start looking at the individual flowers that collectively contribute to these awe inspiring views.

Take a step back and compose
Once you’ve taken a closer look and started to see the shapes and colour that contribute to the wider landscape you can start to you them to inform larger compositions that incorporate more of the surrounding space. Experiment with different elements like trees and rocks, look for shapes, patterns and colours that will help add interest to the final photograph.

Use a Tripod
Using a tripod brings a whole new approach to what you photograph. Firstly it slows you down a little, so you start looking more carefully and interpret your environment in a more considered and deliberate manner.

A tripod also allows you to use slow shutter speeds on your camera without risk of camera shake. For those with a bit of technical understanding this means you can start capturing movement in the camera like flowers blowing in the wind or water running in the streams.

Shift your point of view
Changing a viewpoint of how you and everyone else sees something is a great way to create interest and bring originality to a photo. Experimenting with your angle of approach can be really rewarding!

Look for light
Light has the power to completely alter a scene you are photographing. Any master of photography has had to first understand and master light before anything else. As you walk around the woodlands or any other area, observe how the light is affecting the scene. If the sun is bright you will see strong shadows and bright areas of light shaping the landscape around you. These highlights and shadows will change shape and direction as the day progresses. If the sun is behind cloud you will get a much softer light, which allows your camera to pick up the softer and more delicate tones of the scenery around you.

Your positioning between the Sun and the subject you are photographing can change the outcome of the photo. Stick to a specific area and try photographing the same area from different positions from the sun and observe the differing results.

Don’t be afraid of the rain
If it’s been raining don’t right the day off. Grab an umbrella and get out into the woods! Recent rain can really liven up a photo and bring a real freshness and vibrancy to the surroundings. Raindrops always seem to bring out the best in plants and flowers.

Look for something different
Most of us are likely to have seen thousands of photos depicting scenes of woods filled with bluebells. They’re on cards, calendars, PC screensavers and much, much more! It’s great to emulate good photos that we’ve seen in the past, it helps develop photography skills. But to create a memorable image that holds the viewer’s attention for longer, you need to come up with something different!

The best way to do this is to experiment. Look for new and fresh ways to see the scenery that surrounds you. Search for fresh view points and don’t be afraid to fail. Experiments are ventures into the unknown, you will most likely end up with lots of photos that don’t work but just one might be truly original and that’s something that feels really special.

Do I need a better camera?
I believe you can take great pictures with any camera. Naturally some cameras are better at achieving some things over others, but it’s practice and experience that makes great photos, not what camera you use. Here’s some great photos I managed to get of Middleton woods taken just using my camera phone…

Want to take better photos

If your keen to improve your photography skills you can join Walking Photographer on a guided photo walk. Visit and find a tour that will help take your photography to the next level! #SeeThingsDifferent