Dockey Wood Bluebells

Finally we got to visit our favourite Bluebell Wood two days ago. This is Dockey Wood on the Ashridge Estate not far from Berkhamstead. It’s the best Beech wood with Bluebells that I know, and we have been visiting this wood for several years now.

We were later in the day than usual, and that assisted the amount of light in the wood. The Beech canopy progressively excludes light as the trees come into leaf. Late in the day, with the increasingly oblique slant of the sun, light was filtering between the trunks of the trees resulting in better light penetration. If you were to visit this wood in another two or three weeks you would find it a dark forbidding place. This is a wood that is a delight, but just for such a small fraction of the year.

_DS78984_wpThere is nothing quite like the haze of blue that a carpet of bluebells creates. It is a wondrous sight – guaranteed to lift anyone’s spirits. Each year I try to find something new to say about Bluebells through the images I take.

This year I decided on two main approaches: to capture images of bluebells in their relation to the Beech trees of the wood; and to try Blur (in camera) to give an impressionistic feel to this icon of Spring. Finally I took the Mirror Lens for company.

_DS79000_wpThe first idea is technically straightforward although it requires searching to find the right low-lying branches that are angled in the best direction and not too brightly lit.

Creating blur in-camera without a tripod and without ND filters is far from easy (Yes, I realize I’m making life unnecessarily difficult, but I enjoy the challenge!). The camera movement has to be swift and truly vertical and well-timed. My failure rate is about 75%. My slowest shutter speed was 1/15th. Of the images I captured with in-camera blur, none were satisfactory. all needed the addition of a little Motion Blur in processing to smooth out the initially rather jagged results obtained in-camera. In one image blur was created entirely during processing. See if you can spot the difference. The results I obtained on this shoot, I think, demonstrated that attempting Blur in-camera is really not worth all the trouble, unless you are a purist. One final point about in-camera motion blur – if you use a wide-angle lens you are likely to get quite marked pin cushioning to elements at the vertical edges of the image. This can be easily corrected in processing.

_DS79013_wpFinally, just the one shot through the Mirror Lens (the last image in the gallery below) – more to demonstrate the problems with this lens than for any other reason. This is from a separate wood on the Estate and I had an image of this type in mind. But…isolating Bluebells with a backlit forest behind results in the typical donut bokeh for which Mirror lenses are famous or infamous. In processing I toned these down a little with Gaussian Blur but they are still prominent. Whether they intrude excessively is always ultimately down to whether the main subject of the image is strong enough to hold your attention. In this case, I think it is doubtful,

Enjoy the gallery that follows. Click on the first image and then navigate through.


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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32 Responses to Dockey Wood Bluebells

  1. shoreacres says:

    As a non-photographer, I’ve been a little fuzzy on the whole concept of bokeh, which people seem sometimes to be obsessing over – either its absence or its presence! But at last, thanks to your commentary, I can “see” it in a photo and understand what they’re talking about. So, in that sense at least, your last photo has provided some education.

    Beyond that, my goodness! What a place. I’ve found a few places where flowers carpet the ground beneath our trees, but there never have been so many. It’s a spectacular display. That second photo is flat gorgeous.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for your comment Linda. This is a wonderful wood, for sure. A Mirror Lens is the only lens that produces these ring-shaped Bokeh – a result of its unique light path whereby the light is reflected back onto a mirror within the lens. All other lenses produce circular discs of out of focus highlights which are far easier on the eye. For a longer explanation do take a look at an earlier post of mine:

  2. John Linn says:

    This is a wonderful, almost unbelieveable set of images. A terrific spot to enjoy and photograph. And I like your images… well done.

  3. Lovely! Bluebells are on my photographic ‘to do’ list, if I ever end up in right areas of the UK at the right time.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for commenting. First week in May is the best week to see Bluebells usually in the UK. Bluebell woods are spread widely across the UK, I imagine if you Googled a region of the UK with the word Bluebell added to the search term then you would get a list of potential Bluebell woods.

  4. These are very nice photos of flowers that we’d don’t have in Texas! (Parts of the state have bluebonnets, which carpet the fields with similar shades of blue, but we don’t have them around here.)

    The last shot is my favorite.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Melinda. I have seen images of bluebonnets – they look impressive and similar to bluebells. Interesting to see you preferring the Mirror shot

  5. seekraz says:

    Beautiful, Andy…this is a series of yours that I look forward to each spring…..

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Scott. I look forward to it too – but I was beginning to think I might never get down to this wood on a good day this year. Luckily I did.

  6. poppytump says:

    Ah the 90 minute round trip Andy …you finally made it this year and I can totally see why now from these stunners of yours … what a *magnificent show in perfect conditions … sunlight streaming in and out creating the haze ..
    I too found me a bluebell wood but looking through my photos they didn’t seem to fit the haiku I had in mind but your images do …
    Sapphire weft and warp
    betwixt woodland loom weaving
    bluebell tapestry .
    Hope you’ve had a lovely Spring weekend !

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much Poppy. To get good images of bluebells you need a good wood – and this one ticks all the boxes. Lovely few lines of poetry too.

  7. Those are all amazing captures, so beautiful. And I completely agree with you; the carpet of bluebells is a wondrous sight. My favourite picture is the first one which shows the relationship between bluebells and the forest.

  8. Len says:

    Love those great colors Andy. The blurs really came out great too.

  9. Wow love the motion blur images. Definitely wall worthy 🙂

  10. Beautiful set of images, they’ve almost made me feel homesick (I haven’t seen spring in UK for over 8 years)! I like the motion blur with these colours, it’s something I am trying to experiment with but my failure rate is larger than yours 🙂

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for commenting Lisa. I can imagine how images like these make your feel homesick. My advice would be that if you want to experiment in-camera, make sure your use a ND filter that will slow the shutter speed down so you can control the camera movement a little more easily. Certainly in-camera is tricky. Using the Motion Blur option in Photoshop is so much easier!

  11. Chillbrook says:

    Smashing pictures Andy. There was a particular bluebell wood near where I lived in Aston, Hertfordshire that I used to visit regularly. I haven’t found a similar wood here in Cornwall that displays bluebells in quite such a fabulous way. Your wood is very similar.

  12. Beautiful photos Andy. I’d love to see these woods one day. They look like they belong in a fairytale. Maybe next time I come to your side of the world 🙂

  13. Phillip says:

    Well done Andy. I love the blurs!

  14. ShimonZ says:

    Enjoyed the vision of the bluebells in the woods. so beautiful…

  15. Meanderer says:

    Lovely set of images, Andy.

  16. Helen Cherry says:

    Great work.. I took a blurred photo ( in camera) in a bluebell wood a couple of years ago and in a club competition the judge said he wasn’t a fan of using software to get blurred effect.. I was more than a little annoyed !

    • LensScaper says:

      That’s judging for you – elephant traps everywhere! So easy to say something stupid. I used to judge myself so I understand the difficulties.

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