Virginia Bluebells

My friend Jeff Fleisher and I drove out along a lonely country road to a spot I know where, each spring, there is an extensive field of Virginia bluebells to be found and photographed. Situated in a lowland woods bordering meandering Goose Creek, these lovely wildflowers inhabit both sides of the river. While they’re easily approached on the near side of the water, the road is seldom traveled and one can easily spend a pleasant afternoon immersed in a sea of blue without being disturbed.

A group of Virginia bluebells. Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/160 sec., f/8, ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are erect plants that thrive in moist, shady locations. Though named for the Virginia in which I photographed these, they are found throughout the eastern United States as far west as the Mississippi River. Their blossoms emerge as pink buds that soon evolve into the classic blue that is their namesake.

Another cluster of blossoms. Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO 64.

I did not find these bluebells easy to photograph. In fact, the photos shown are from our second trip to record their beauty. The first day was overcast, and while this can be good for capturing the full color of flowers such as these, the breeze moved the blossoms constantly and the light was too dim for fast shutter speeds that would stop the motion. The alternative was to raise the ISO to levels that generated more digital noise than I wanted. I was not happy with the first day’s shoot and none of those photos are shown here.

The second day was sunny, though the light was filtered through the as-yet leafless trees. In some cases I used a large silver reflector to beam light into shaded places on the flowers to give them full illumination. I used a Stabil tripod, a wooden model handmade in Finland, for most of my images because it let me get the camera down to blossom level.

Getting complete sharpness was a challenge, even so. I had to trade off shutter speed, needed to freeze the constant motion of the blossoms, with the f-stop, a higher number being desired to increase the depth of focus. In the end, what I got was a compromise. To enhance the sharpness of the images, I processed them first in Adobe Lightroom for color and luminosity, the further edited them in Topaz Sharpen AI to make the details a little crisper.

I hope you like these images as much as I enjoyed making them.

Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/13 sec, f/11, ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Published by Norman Reid

I worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 27 years in the field of rural community and economic development. I retired a few years ago and have been devoting my time to photography and writing. I've been a semi-pro photographer for more than 25 years and sell my work on the Web. I live in rural Virginia not far from the Shenandoah Valley.

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