Spring is a great time of year for the landscape photographer as our woodlands come to life with fresh green foliage and wildflowers. The most popular of those wildflowers has to be the native English bluebell and one of the best places to see these in abundance is at Middleton Woods, just north of Ilkley in Lower Wharfedale.
This year proved no exception with a great crop of bluebells which were just about at their peak last week (so may still be worth a visit). It’s generally worth starting to explore your local bluebell woods from the end of April onwards as the flowers start to come into bloom and in early May the woods around Yorkshire tend to be at their best for bluebells, but it will depend on how sheltered the particular woodland near you is and how warm the spring has been.
This year spring took a rather cooler turn (after a promising start) so Middleton Woods seemed at its finest in the middle of the month. This was just as well, as I’d not found a day earlier in the month to get out there when the conditions were right for bluebell photography. What I was looking for was a nice still day with some light cloud cover to give good diffused light for photographing the subtle colours of the foliage and flowers.
My patience was rewarded on this year’s visit – after a few windy days where photographing the flowers would have been very difficult, the midweek forecast was for low wind and a sunny morning but with cloud moving over in the afternoon, so I aimed to get to the woods at about lunchtime. The forecast proved accurate with sunlight peeping through to start with making exposure a bit tricky, though one or two shots in denser parts of the woods worked OK with some dappled sunlight – but the best light came as the cloud started to build up a bit giving an hour or so of perfect light.
With a good selection of tripod shots in the bag, there was even some time for a bit of experimentation with camera movement for some more abstract images of the fresh spring foliage and blue flowers.
The best areas of the woods tend to be around the paths on the northern edge of the area marked as Middleton Woods on the map below, though lower down the hill and over the road into Stubham Wood is also worth a look.
Another great thing about this location is that if the bluebells have faded, then it’s not too far over to Bolton Abbey where Strid Wood will be filled with wild garlic flowers, as it was on the East bank of the River Wharfe on our recent Bolton Abbey workshop – and the flowers on the more shady West bank of the river were still in bud, so there’s still more to come!