Photographing Bluebells in Kent

English bluebells, scientifically known as Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are a quintessential emblem of the British countryside, enchanting with their delicate, nodding blooms and vibrant hues of blue. These native woodland perennials, heralds of spring, paint the forest floor with a carpet of azure, casting a spell of tranquillity and natural beauty wherever they bloom. Revered for their elegance and resilience, English bluebells have captivated botanists, poets, and nature enthusiasts for centuries, embodying the timeless charm and enchantment of the British landscape.



Sunrise at King’s Wood. My favourite part of the woods. Hidden away plus the barn in the distance make for a nice element to include


My favourite place to see the spectacular seasonal display is at King’s Wood near Ashford. The 1500-acre forest located in the Kent Downs AONB has a mix of broad-leafed and coniferous trees which can be explored via an array of trails and well-maintained paths; historically King’s Wood was a royal hunting ground frequented by Henry VIII and herds of fallow deer still roam here today. I have been frequenting these woods and photographing the bluebells for the past 10 years and I’d like to share my favourite images along with information about how I shot them.



As I write this at the end of March 2024, the first flowers have been out for a week or so here in south-east England, owing to the very mild winter we had this year. My favourite patches in King’s Wood for shooting bluebells are in amongst the Beech trees and these will be too bare early in the season. The display of fresh green leaves alongside the bluebells not only adds a crucial complementary colour but also effectively mitigates high contrast by filling the gaps among the trees and obscuring the brightness of the sky. Waiting for the right balance of bluebell carpet and woodland canopy is therefore important. This harmony will only last for a couple of weekends though before the flowers start to fade. Looking back over my catalogue from the past decade the last week of April has consistently been the best time to be out in the woods down here in Kent.



Sunset sunstar shot. This was taken with my 16-35mm zoom lens which renders sunstars quite differently to my primes.


How to achieve the Sunstar shot 

Shooting into the light can create dramatic images and here in the woods is no different. I love the long shadows of the trees it causes and the ripples of light upon the bluebell carpet. I was hooked on capturing this effect for years as you can tell by the number of sunstar shots in this blog!
This requires good light at either end of the day, fortunately, there are good locations at King’s Wood at sunrise and sunset. The sun moves quickly at these times of the day so I get to my location early and follow the sun around. Filters are useless here as they will darken the trees too much and they will only intensify the lens flare you are likely to get. I typically shoot a 3 shot bracket to merge later in software but often I can get away with just one file with my trusty but aging Nikon D810.



Similar spot to the previous image. This was taken with my 20mm lens, see the difference in how it produces sunstars..!


Alternative Approaches


The ‘classic sunstar’ shot is by far not the only way to shoot a bluebell woodland. Ancient bluebell woodlands can be a peaceful and enchanting environment. I try to emphasise this my concentrating on details with a fast telephoto lens to create dreamy soft images. These type of images also benefit from soft light so dull overcast days can still be productive.



Lovely misty morning in King’s Wood. The only time I’ve witnessed these atmospheric conditions here during bluebell season. Shame..!


First Light

Telephoto detail shot of light striking the face of a tree amongst the bluebell carpet



A high contrast scene. I picked out the cascading trees with my 70-200 lens


Star Performer

I remember this evening in the woods well. It was early in the season and most trees were quite bare except for this one. I used my 135mm lens to isolate the trunk whilst getting low to render the foreground bluebells as a swath of colour.



A blustery afternoon..! The conditions were overcast and very windy so I set up a long exposure shot to make a feature of the swirling branches.



By shooting low to the ground and through the woodland floor at f2 on my 135mm lens, I could isolate the few flowers illuminated by the light and render the rest as a blur



Overcast conditions are ideal for soft, delicate shots of woodland




After the rain



Simply playing..!


Close Ups


Often early in the season when the trees aren’t ready but the bluebells are looking beautiful and fresh I will turn my attention to shooting macro images. It can be very satisfying to isolate that one perfect specimen from the carpet and experiment rendering the background bokeh in creative ways.








Stick to Paths!

Every shot in this blog was taken on a clearly defined path and/or trail. There are lots of them in King’s Wood so there is no excuse for trampling the flowers to try and get ‘the shot’. It isn’t necessary and you only ruin it for everyone else..! 


Bluebell Trail

One of my many winding trails through the bluebell woods



Panoramic sunset shot from one of the trails through the woodland


I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and has inspired you to go and see them this season 🙂

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