The bluebells season is nearly over this year. I devoted several days before travelling to Iceland for bluebells photography. I explored the Micheldever woods and Malvern hills. Both displays were absolutely fantastic while very unique and different in many ways.
The first morning at Micheldever was a little hectic. After 3:30AM start, I was struggling to find any bluebells at all for the sunrise. Eventually I found a few isolated patches but it was really far cry from the desirable scenery. Eventually I discovered a much richer area on the other side of the woods and decided to come back and do it all again a couple days later.
Next morning I was positioned significantly better for the dawn. It was still somewhat a hide and seek game to get the perfect sunrise image with the long shadows of the trees due to thick tree canopy and some undesirable vegetation on the ground. Undoubtedly it was a very successful morning with series of great images saved on the memory card. However, I thought I could still do even better. I spent perhaps the next couple hours walking the woods with the ephemeris app planning the sunset. I picked three spots which I would cover in turn as the sun dips down.
I've spent the daytime in the New Forest exploring the area and came back to a pre-planned location in the woods around a couple of hours before the sunset. From that moment it was really a race against the clock to get the best images moving on through the forest. Eventually the sun was very low casting long shadows and illuminating the flowers in warm golden and orange. It was the opportunity I sought for so hard and I did everything to make sure I had the shot.
The trees in the forest in the shade and patches of the bright sky and the sun in the frame are clearly a difficult task for any camera equipment. A graduated ND filter would solve some of these problems while creating others - notably creating more flare from the sun and causing the tree canopy to darken beyond any reasonable expectation. Therefore the only viable solution was to bracket the exposure and manually blend it later. I personally prefer to edit all three images equally, the match the exposure then blend it in photoshop using layer masks. The results are very seamless and natural looking if done carefully.
The Malvern bluebells grow on the open slopes of the hills and are facing north west, therefore are ideally positioned for the sunset. The location required a totally different composition and presented different challenges. I decided to shoot a wide-angle sunset view from higher elevation with the bluebells in the foreground. It was a little foggy in the horizon therefore the light was somewhat diffuse on the flowers. Overall, I am pleased with the image, however next year I might try to get a slightly more colourful and contrasty variation.