bluebell photography

The magic of bluebells: exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk

The Magic of Bluebells: Exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk1.jpg

It's become an annual tradition to visit the Arlington Bluebell Walk in East Sussex in late April / early May - springtime would not be the same without it. Luckily for me, it's only a short drive away - but I think it's well worth a longer trek. It has the most beautiful and concentrated display of bluebells I've ever seen, and most of them can be viewed from wide accessible paths. There is a small entrance fee (£6 in 2017) which goes to a group of local charities - and it's worth every penny! 

There are 7 different walks you can take through beautiful woodland and farmland with lots of different vistas. My favourite is the short loop through Beatons Wood where most of the bluebells can be found (this is accessible to wheelchair users). There are some ponds (great for reflections) and lots of tree stumps and of course endless trees to provide interesting focal points for your photographs. Plus there are lots of seats scattered throughout the woodland for when your feet get too weary. The birdsong is so beautiful!

As you would expect, the bluebell walk gets very popular and busy at peak season with families and photographers alike. You can track the progress of the bluebells on the Arlington Bluebell Walk website, which is so helpful for planning your visit. The white wood anenomes appear first, followed by the bluebells - I love to try and capture a mix of both. It's definitely worth getting there as early as you can to beat the crowds, although there is so much space, it's very easy to wander away and find some peace and quiet.

The bluebell woods make the perfect backdrop for some portrait photography. We had some fun trying to get our little dog Misty to pose for the camera. With the help of some treats, we sort of managed it!

I've experimented with lots of different lenses over the years, but have settled on my 85mm f1.8 prime lens as my favourite lens to capture the magic of bluebells (paired with a full frame DSLR, the Canon 6D). I'm not one for wide angle shots, with lots of detail and everything in focus. Instead, I prefer to blur out the foreground and part of the background to try and capture the great swathes of purple and provide a dreamy, gentle feeling. It's not the best lens - and tends to be very soft when you are shooting with it wide open (a small number aperture), so most of these shots were taken somewhere around the f2.2 mark. They're not as sharp as I would like, so I will continue experimenting....

To get the blurry soft foreground, I crouched down low so that I had several rows of bluebells in front of me, and then focussed on a point roughly in the middle of the scene, using an aperture around f1.8-2.2 to create a shallow depth of field. This meant that the bluebells directly in front of me would be out of focus, as would the trees in the very far background, but the section in the middle that I focussed on, would be nice and sharp, drawing the eye there.

If you'd like to understand more about aperture and shallow depth of field, you might want to look at my post on How to get background blur in your photographs.

If you'd like to see more photos, I've collected my images from the last 3 years into an album on Flickr: Arlington Bluebell Walk - or you can click through the embedded slideshow below.

Arlington Bluebell Walk, East Sussex

I hope you enjoyed a wander through the Arlington Bluebell Walk. Do let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.


Arlington Bluebell Walk

Well, hello there folks. My apologies for a rather unplanned blogging break - the result of lots of DIY and garden projects whilst trying to balance things with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I'm learning to be kinder to myself and to go gently when I need to, and to ask less of myself when things are challenging - so I hope you understand. I've got lots of photos and places to share with you, so hopefully I'll be back in my stride (in a gentle way) soon.

First up, is the very beautiful Arlington Bluebell Walk. If you live anywhere near East Sussex, I highly recommend a visit during late April/early May. They have a website www.bluebellwalk.co.uk with helpful updates on the current state of the bluebells, so you can plan your visit when they are at their peak. There is an entrance charge (£5 in 2016) which is donated to several charities each year. I was a little sceptical at first about paying to see a bluebell wood, when there are many places you can visit for free, but this place is very special indeed and well worth every penny - I have never seen a carpet of bluebells quite like it. Magical is the only word for it.

It's a huge site, with wide paths accessible to wheelchairs around the parts where the bluebell planting is at its densest. There are lots of other walks on narrower tracks around the surrounding farmland as well, if you fancy going further afield. You will also find refreshments, toilet facilities and some farm animals to meet before you enter the woods.

There are lots of places to sit and admire the views and listen to the beautiful birdsong as you wander along. But if you're anything like me, you might get a bit twitchy with a camera in your hand and so many beautiful photographs waiting to be taken. Literally every few steps is a new picture and a new delight.

This year was my second visit and I enjoyed pottering around with my 85mm f1.8 lens on my camera. I love to shoot wide open for maximum background blur to try and capture a little something of that bluebell magic. Bluebells can be a really tough subject to photograph as it can be tricky to get the colour balance right, and if you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, you will find the conditions very contrasty. My style is light and bright so many of my shots are intentionally overexposed and shadows brightened just enough to try and represent that magical light and experience.

Before the bluebells emerge, the woodlands are carpeted in white wood anemones - a beautiful sight in their own right - but the combination is really delightful.

The woodlands are full of interesting tree stumps, piles of logs and bendy branches to add interest and focal points for your photos - and they can provide a perfect setting for some portraiture photos.

One of my favourite things to do is to try and capture the sweeps of light through the trees, creating beautiful sparkling highlights and interesting shadows. I was lucky enough to visit on a gorgeous sunny day, so there was plenty of magical light.

Have you visited before? What are your favourite bluebell haunts? I'd love to hear.

More photos can be found on Flickr below, if you'd like to see more :)

Bluebell magic