If you go down to the woods today…

… if you are lucky you will find English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).  These plants are a feature of UK woods at this time of year, and they are a spectacular sight – and smell.  I’m lucky enough to have access to a friend’s private bluebell wood, and went along yesterday with a heavy camera bag and a heavy tripod.

In order to capture the swathes of flowers across the woodland, I tried out a technique that I’ve previously used for macro images; focus stacking.

“Focus stacked bluebells” by Derek Gale

With a 200mm lens, the depth of field was quite small, so I took a series of three images, and changed the focus point between images.  I opened the images as layers in Photoshop, aligned them, and then stacked them.  It’s sort of worked, giving more depth of field across the bluebells, but if you look closely you can see areas between the in-focus areas where the flowers are still out of focus.  I’ll go back and try it again with many more focus points.

One feature of this wood is an area where there are lots of orchids, so my macro lens came in useful.

“Early purple orchid” by Derek Gale

They are early purple orchids (orchis mascula), and they show huge variation in flower size, colour, and pattern.  This one was quite light in tone, but others were very dark or almost pale pink.  Each individual flower is quite small and has no nectar, and they attract pollinating insects by looking a bit like other flowers that do have nectar – sneaky!

As well as the masses of bluebell flowers, the individual plants are beautiful in their own right.

“Single bluebell plant” by Derek Gale

This plant, against a moss-covered rotting log, looked almost as if it was in a tropical jungle.  It shows the classic English bluebell drooping stem, with flowers on one side of the stem.  There’s another bluebell, the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), that’s hybridising with the English bluebell, and is viewed as an invasive species threatening the English bluebell.

So get out and enjoy an English bluebell wood while you still can.

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