Tips for photographing your children in the bluebells

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The snow has melted and the sun is shining in Devon – it feels like Spring is finally on its way. We’re having a bit of a garden overhaul at Annie Renwick Photography HQ. We have been slogging away removing boulders, thinning out trees and pulling roots up to create new flower beds to give our garden more of a ‘cottage garden’ feel. It’s pretty much still a big mess until we get everything in the skip at the end of the month, but the flower beds are ready and we’ve been so excited to get all sorts of perennials planted recently. I must share some photos when everything is in bloom because it promises to look gorgeous.

Anyway, amongst all the digging I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the bluebells emerging. Bluebells really are a great British phenomenon and we seem to celebrate their arrival every year by going for walks and picnics in our favourite bluebell spots. And dare I say, the obligatory photos of our children in the bluebells.

So, I thought you may find a few tips on how to best photograph your children in the bluebells useful.

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Find your location

Everyone has their favourite bluebell location. However, there are a few things to look out for when selecting the best spot for taking portraits of your children amongst the bluebells. Bluebells usually grow in woodland areas which means that there isn’t a huge amount of light available. Also, where the light shines through the trees in the winter months it creates patches of bright light. You want to try and avoid these patches. You can do this by either photographing in the bluebells early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun isn’t directly above you and is also a bit softer. Contrary to what you may think, cloudy days are also very welcome as they provide soft even light and make the colours pop more.

Here are a few of my favourite spots on Dartmoor, where I am based:

·      Whiddon Deer Park near Chagford

·      Lustleigh Cleave, especially near Heaven’s Gate

·      East Hill, near the Okehampton army camp

·      Emsworthy Mire near Haytor (Wildlife Trust)

·      Holwell Lawn, to the back of Haytor

Other locations I’ve visited with gorgeous bluebells are Buckland Abbey and Killerton (both National Trust), Lady’s Wood in South Brent (Wildlife Trust) and Hardwick Wood (Woodland Trust). I will do more exploring this year and add to this list if I find some exciting new spots. And please feel free to share your most magical bluebell spots with us too. 

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Find the best light

You also need to consider where to place your children within the bluebells so that the best light falls on their faces. When I’m looking for my bluebell locations, I try to find an area of open woodland rather than tighter spots. You will want to place your children with their backs to the denser woodland and their faces towards the open area so that they are well lit. If this is making little sense to you, you can do a couple of things to find the best light. Ask your child to stand in one spot and gently turn in a circle as you follow them around. In bad light, their skin will look greyish but when you find the good light, their skin should glow. When you think you have found the good light, look into your child’s eyes for a little catchlight. The best way to describe it is like a little sparkle of light where they are catching the light from the sky or a brighter area in front of them. Portraits with catchlights always have an extra bit of magic to them!

Emsworthy Mire is a fabulous place to photograph your children in the bluebells as it is a vast open meadow, so if you photograph early in the morning or at sunset, you have so many light airy options without worrying too much about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ light. 

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Look for great angles

It can be trickier than expected capturing a great portrait in the bluebells, and as we don’t want to trample all the flowers we can sometimes be limited to pathways. My best tips are:

·      Sit your children down on a path, a log or a little chair (get them to snuggle in close to their siblings or give them something to hold if they are alone). By sitting down they are getting closer to the flowers. You can also use the path as a good leading line.

·      Photograph down low. This will make the pathway disappear and make it look like they are sitting in a sea of bluebells. You will also be able to capture some out of focus flowers in the foreground which will give your photo a dreamy feel.

·      Photograph from up high to exclude distracting objects in the background and include just the flowers that surround them. 

·      Include movement – if you have girls, ask them to twirl in their dresses. 

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Clothing and styling

This is SO important. Don’t underestimate how much of a difference clothing and styling can make to your final image. You’re looking for harmony or contrast in your photographs. Below are some colour ideas to create harmony in your portraits - think creams, pastel pinks, greys, different shades of blues. For a nice contrasting pop, use a bright yellow/ochre colour.

For girls, long swishy dresses or tutus are great. It’s often colder than expected during the bluebell season so take plenty of warm clothes to warm up or wear little wool cardigans or faux fur gilets to add layers and textures. Be sure to dress littler ones warm enough otherwise they will not cooperate, especially if it’s damp too! It can be quite wet underfoot, so wear wellies or going barefoot works too! For boys, beiges with braces look very sweet, and other accessories, such as hats or scarves work well. Or create a more casual look with a pair of jeans and a shirt.

For inspiration, you may find my Pinterest board helpful: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/annierenwick/bluebell-inspiration/

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Timing is key

It’s very difficult to know when the bluebells will be in flower, and unfortunately it changes every year depending on the weather conditions. The only way is to be on bluebell watch and try and catch them within the first couple of weeks of flowering when they are looking their best.

Bluebells are protected

And please remember, bluebells are protected flowers. I often like to give bluebells to my little models to hold, which I pick from my garden before the session. If you don’t have access to bluebells and you would like your children to hold some in their photos, you can easily find artificial bluebell bunches online.

I hope you have found these tips useful. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have if it doesn’t quite make sense or I’ve forgotten to mention something. However, if the thought of organizing your children and having to photograph them is all a bit overwhelming, I will be holding a limited number of bluebell sessions throughout Spring. Please let me know soon if you are interested as these will get snapped up quickly. info@annierenwick.co.uk

Fine Art Ballet Portraits - Devon

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My love of ballet goes back a long way… not as a dancer (I have two left feet) but as an artist. When I was studying for my A Level in art, I chose Edgar Degas as my case study. I spent hours replicating his paintings of ballerinas. He often used pastels to paint with, which I loved as a medium. I would scratch away with my pastels on huge canvases I had stuck to the wall. I used to stand on a chair to reach the top. I also traveled to Paris to see Degas' paintings in the museums, and to this day the statue of the little ballerina standing in the middle of the gallery is etched so clearly in my mind.

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When I was running my family photography business in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of photographing several little ballerinas. I was so captivated by these sessions at the time, because they were inspiring and fun, as well as beautiful.

Fast forward a few years, and possibly subconsciously, when I placed a model call for a little deer for one of my 'In the Wood' shoots I somehow felt that because of their elegance, my deer should be a ballerina (you can see some of these photos here). After this, I decided I would like to offer ballet dancers and their parents a photo session with a more fine art feel, that would reflect the beauty and elegance of their craft. 

Grace fine art ballet portrait
Lizzie fine art ballet photography
Ellie children ballet photo

After almost a year of searching and asking, I chanced upon Great Fulford. It really is a manor lost in time in the depths of Devon. Although in part beautifully restored, other areas have a lovely feel of time gone by. The faded and peeling wall paper in the grand staircase adds something really special contrasted against the elegance and beauty of the ballet dancers.

Grace ballet en pointe photos

I spent one Sunday morning a week or so ago with three families exploring the light and possibilities the different rooms had to offer. It was really magical. And I'm so pleased with the photos - I hope you like them too. Please leave me a comment on Facebook or Instagram to let me know which are your favourites. 

You can book one of my Fine Art Ballet sessions taking place on 10th and 24th March. Further details can be found here.

Adam ballet pose
Ballet photography south west
Ballet jumps synchronised

And the winner is....

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A massive thank you to all 89 people who entered into my mini-session portrait prize draw  from across Devon (and beyond). It means so much to be supported by past clients, friends, fans and equally lovely to see some new faces. Welcome!

I was really moved by all your little stories and messages about why you would love to win my mini-portrait session, and I genuinely would love to take photographs for everyone. With me getting all emotional and in a flap about drawing a winner, I soon realized that I needed to enlist some help from my lovely neighbour and friend Sarah, of Sarah Clarke Photography to help me. So, she popped over quickly this morning between watching her son’s class assembly and doing her homework for her Italian class and pulled one very lucky winner out of the pot. A huge congratulations to:

Lou Francis

Well done Lou! I’m so excited to be meeting you and your little family soon. Please get in touch so I can send you more details.

As a thank you to everyone else who entered, I am happy to offer you a complimentary 6x6” inch portrait portfolio printed on fine art paper when you book any session with me this year. I genuinely love meeting and photographing children and families and hope that I may have the opportunity to photograph yours in 2018. I am running some unique offers as part of my relaunch this year which you can find more information about here. If you have any questions about how I work, please feel free to get in touch, I would love to hear from you.

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And of course, you all got that my little nursery rhyme riddle was in fact Hickory Dickory Dock. My son has been obsessed with clocks and this particularl nursery rhyme ever since he was born it seems. He asks me to take random photos of clocks whenever we are out and about, and in his opinion, every shop should have a clock. Have a little look when you are next out and about, you’ll be surprised by how many clocks you can spot! Only little eyes and imaginations can bring so much wonder to our everyday clocks. My husband and I are so pleased that we took the time out to take this photos of our son in his little world as they mean so much to us and to him. And yes, I will be printing them out!!

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Uncovering The Magic of Childhood

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Back in February I took a photography course about capturing the magic of childhood. The weather was pretty rotten all through February (which is to be expected in the UK) so I was unable to complete my last assignment until a couple of months ago. I am so excited about sharing these photos!

Through taking this course I wanted to refine how I captured children’s imagination at play. I do love to use props in my photography, but I felt I needed to give them a little more purpose and really be able to infuse the magic into my work. This course gave me the direction I was looking for, from brainstorming all the way through to editing. Below I share some of the assignments and challenges that I had to work though. 

My first assignment was about finding your ‘anchor’ for your photo session and planning around your theme. I had seen some gorgeous vintage style outfits inspired by Beatrix Potter’s stories, so I set about planning a little mini-shoot based on Beatrix Potter. Here I share my mood board and my final images. 

Beatrix Potter Moodboard
Beatrix Potter Styled Shoot Dartmoor

For the second assignment, I had to photograph the connection between two subjects. My anchor was a girl and her pony, but I also had to give some thought to the location, props and the wardrobe to support my idea. I knew the weather was going to be grey and drizzly, so working with the available light was my first concern. I looked for images on Pinterest that were taken under grey skies to get a feel for style of photos I would take on the day, and I wanted to create a soft feel through the use of light clothing. I helped my little model to pick out her outfit and we found this lovely wooly waistcoat in her dressing up box which worked really well alongside her sweet pony Mouse. I had to make sure that the location had trees to create some directional light, which is more interesting to photograph than the light available in a big open field. 

In the Wood Deer Moodboard
Merryn Pony Photos Dartmoor

The third week was lots of fun! It was all about being stuck in a rut and being able to get yourself out of it by working through a series of mini-assignments. There were so many great ideas to work with this week and I must make myself a note to go back to them. Some included using one lens only and seeing how many different photos you could create with it, or you could go the opposite way and use every single lens you own (which I tend to do anyway on my sessions – it’s always a mission to find all the lens caps afterwards!).

In the first mini-assignment, I had to challenge myself to take 10 unique photos while keeping the model in one spot. I did ok, but I got rather distracted by just how gorgeous and graceful my little ballerina was…I might come back to this one and take on the challenge of doing it properly. I did, however, get lots of beautiful photos of Grace. I've photographed her since and I am now working on a series of In the Wood sessions as I loved the mix of costumes, ballet and woodland locations. 

Woodland Ballerina Dartmoor
In the woods moodboard
deer woodland photoshoot dartmoor

The last assignment I had to work on (and just completed recently) was all about being spontaneous – me and my model. For this last photo shoot I was lucky to meet Phoebe, who is sweet, creative, full of energy, but at times over-eager to please others – more on this later. Phoebe’s task was to write down five topics that we could develop into a photoshoot on different pieces of paper and draw one out of a hat. Once we had done this, we were to set a timer to plan the shoot, i.e. find the location, the clothing, props etc. Phoebe pulled out ‘Circus’, and as she loves animals and Harry Potter so much, we had to throw a little bit of everything into the mix. Spontaneity was a little tricky for Phoebe initially. She was wanting direction from us and myself and her mum had to keep reassuring her that this was all about her and she could be whatever she liked – the Magical Ringmaster! She did fall into her role eventually and we came away with some great shots of Phoebe letting her imagination run wild. It was lots of fun for all of us.

Ringmaster Photo session Dartmoor
The Magic of Childhood Dartmoor Photographer

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog about Uncovering the Magic of Childhood. I will be launching a series of mini-sessions early next year, so if you would love me to take some photos of your children please send me a message and I’ll make sure you hear about my exciting offers first.

In the meantime, enjoy the magic of Christmas!

Annie x