Chris Button Photography

Online Diary: Micheldever, Hampshire

June 2013

Every time I go to Micheldever I have a nagging doubt that I haven't seen the best bluebells in the wood. The reason is that I see many more cars in the car park than I see photographers in the wood (lots of the cars will be owned by photographers and not dog walkers given that is 5am). The other reason is that photographs by other people from Micheldever usually feature denser patches of Bluebells.

I googled "Micheldever Bluebells 2013" and found a thread which suggested that the best bluebells were right at the northern end and also with another good show at the southern end which is known as Itchen Wood and which is right next to the motorway bridge and a much shorter walk (100 yards versus 1 mile).  I knew that the Itchen Wood bluebells would have been heavily photographed and so I decided to go for the much longer walk and the lesser known (to me at least) northern end.

A 1st June visit for Bluebells would in normal years be disappointing as it would undoubtedly miss the peak display. In 2013, however, after the coldest spring in decades the peak was likely to be at least 2 weeks later than normal.

I parked in the main car park (disturbing 2 Muntjac Deer in my headlights) which is ½ mile past the M3 motorway bridge heading east and from the car park I followed the wide track out to the right and then northwards for about a mile. The deciduous mainly beech trees gave way to a dense and darker area of conifers and then the larger more spread out beech trees returned and some nice patches of bluebells soon followed. However, it did seem fairly dark under the beech tree canopy which was now quite thick with it being June.

Right at the very end of the wood I found a dense carpet of bluebells and in the early morning light they looked almost pink, the canopy of beech leaves wasn't as dense here and the ambient light created a magical scene particularly compared to the darker more enclosed canopy of the nearby sections of the wood.

Compared to my trip the week before I wanted to find a denser show of bluebells and try for a different type of image, using a wider angle lens and then cropping into a panoramic format to exclude any highlights from the sky. With the D800's 36mp sensor there is certainly room to adopt this cropping technique as even a very heavy crop leaves the cropped image with more pixels than I had on my previous camera.

I really liked the subtle path leading the eye into this first shot. The next shot is also before the sun had been able to penetrate the canopy and features attractive green ferns punctuating the bluebells which seemed to have a slight pinkiness to them in this early morning diffuse light.

On the next image it was the placement of the trees, particular the three on the left, that attracted my attention.

It took about an hour for the sun to find a gap through the trees in the distance and I then had long attractive shadows racing towards me. Again a letterbox crop to exclude distracting highlights seemed to work.

A more traditional 3:2 aspect shot with the harsh contrast controlled by placing the sun behind the central trunk. 

The final 2 shots were taken as contrast continued to increase but the incredible D800 sensor continued to keep the entire range covered.

Overall, the bluebells were still looking good although perhaps just passed their absolute peak and this was probably why I didn't see anyone else the whole time but they were the nicest and densest bluebells I've seen so far.

I popped in to the Itchen Wood site on my way home and there was certainly a lot of bluebells here although I don’t think that the dawn light would have been as good and unfortunately the most striking thing here were the number of trampled flowers, no doubt from photographers keen to get the shot. After a very enjoyable morning I was back in bed by 7:30am for a bonus 2 hours sleep.

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