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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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. firstname.lastname@example.org