Bluebell woods are one of THE most popular locations for photo shoots! Spring photo sessions are just such a joy to create for families, kids & dogs. Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands are blessed with many bluebell woods and they make for a great day out! I’ve been photographing children, dogs and families in the bluebells for over a decade now and are one of the greatest joys of spring. I’ve also learnt a lot about bluebells in that time and thought I would share some of the knowledge with you.
If your interested in booking a Bluebell Photo Shoot click this link and it will take you to a very special offer https://www.clbphotography.co.uk/bluebells-special-offer
Are Bluebells out yet? When do Bluebells grow?
Bluebells in woods near Leamington, Warwick & Coventry tend to flower in April and May. The spring flowers usually last for around 4-6 weeks and are heralded by wood anemones. So if you see these lovely white flowers out you know that the bluebells are not far behind. They often mix together and make a great setting for woodland photoshoots. Their timing is of course dependent on what the weather in Warwickshire is getting up to!
Are bluebells a protected species? Are they endangered?
YES! Legislation was brought in to protect these beautiful flowers in 1981 under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. Thanks to habitat destruction and because of unscrupulous people digging up the flowers to sell them on. Combined with people picking the flowers which means they cannot set seed steps have had to be taken to protect these flowers for everyone’s benefit.
Do Bluebells Smell?
Apparently bluebells do have a sweet delicate scent a little bit like honey but in all the years I’ve been photographing bluebells I have to say I’ve never noticed it. Will be sure to ask the kids on this years bluebell photoshoots if they can smell them. The woods do though have a beautiful earthy smell!
Do bluebells turn white?
Yes you can indeed get white bluebells, you can also get pink ones. These can be can be albino blubells or hybrid mixes with the Spanish Bluebell.
How do you tell the difference between Spanish and English Bluebells?
How do you tell the difference between Spanish and English Blubells?
It’s not easy to tell the difference unless you have the two next to each other. The English Bluebell is more delicate, smaller and has narrower leaves and gives off a sweet scent. The Spanish Bluebell is a more robust flower, slightly taller and has broader leaves.
Spanish bluebells were originally brought into the U.K. In the 1600’s, because they spread from private gardens into the wild and have the ability to crossbreed with our native English Bluebells we need to protect them. They do look very similar until you put them next to each other. The English Bluebell is more delicate, has thinner leaves and just one flower head per bulb. The Spanish Bluebell is taller and has wider leaves and takes 3 years to grow to its full size. In comparison the English Bluebell takes 5 years to flower. Interestingly the Spanish Bluebell has no scent.
How do Bluebells, seed, spread, multiply & reproduce?
Bluebells spread in two ways, by seed dispersal and also by the bulbs dividing. Woodland critters do this for the bulbs and birds and insects help with seed dispersal.
In 2015 England voted the Bluebell as their favorite windflower.
What are Bluebells used for?
Medieval archers used the root sap from bluebells as glue for “fletching” the feathers to their arrows
Ancient woodland is the Bluebells ideal place to grow and they are often used as an indicator of ancient woodland. Before the 1600’s woodlands were not planted they simply occurred naturally. Mature trees leave enough space between them so allowing the swaths of colour that the bluebells create when they carpet the woodland floor.
The Victorians listed the Bluebell as being the flower that symbolises ever lasting love.
Bluebell woods near me in Coventry, Warwickshire & the West Midlands
These include Crackley Woods in Kenilworth which is situated next to the Greenway. Ryton Woods is lovely and because its near Coventry is easily accessible by road. Packwood House near Lapworth in Warwickshire is owned by the National Trust, because of this it makes a very full day out! Coughton Court which is on the Studley to Alcester road and is easy to find. Snitterfield Bushes- a nature reserve near Startford Upon Avon and Tock Wood on Gibbett Hill Road near Warwick University in Coventry are just wonderful. Wappenbury Wood in Princethorpe near Rugby is also beautiful and that names just a few of the many Bluebell woods near me! Ill do another blog with more details about these locations and maybe some more!
How to get the best of your Bluebell photos!
Kids : Clothes for a photoshoot just need to have a bit of thought, thinking carefully about what to put your children in. I love to combine whites and blues and yellow can also work well. Pretty dresses, dongarees and wellies, shorts and shirts all work well. I find simplicity will always serve you well. So by keeping the colour pallet fairly natural we can concentrate on your children’s faces.
Dogs : no clothes required! Leads can be photoshopped out and so can collars and tags if you prefer the more natural look!
If your interested in booking a Bluebell Photo Shoot click this link and it will take you to a very special offer https://www.clbphotography.co.uk/bluebells-special-offer
I love what I do! Working with children and animals by creating portraits that capture special moments in time really is the best job in the world! Winning national and international acclaim for the images I give my clients really is the cherry on top!
Local portrait photographer Christine Burke was the highest scoring Child Portrait photographer in the UK and ranked 3rd in the world at this years SWPP Awards held in London. Christine’s silhouetted image of one boy and his dog was taken in Kenilworth not far from the castle. The Society of Wedding & Portrait photographers Annual competition attracted nearly 13,000 entries this year from all over the World. Christine said “ I am still in a state of shock! My silhouette images are something I offer all my customers and this winning image was taken on one of my Pawfect Experience sessions. Delighted to be giving my customers what I can now say is a truly world class service!
This image also won an award with the Guild of Photographers. I’m delighted to tell you that for a time it featured on their main page too! My silhouette images are an incredibly popular choice with my clients. Because of this award l’m looking forward to doing a special offer on them to celebrate!
INVITED TO CARNEGIE HALL
So… In October I was invited to Carnegie Hall in New York! Another amazing moment in my life! The International Photographers Association invited me along to receive certification for winning a Highly Commended award for this image of 3 beautiful English Setters. Narrowly missing out on a top three prize which were claimed by photographers in America & Japan. Not too shabby for a simple portrait photographer from little old Leamington Spa! So happy to be able to offer my customers a truly International service and do so in a way that brings nothing but happiness & joy to everyone!
Local Dog Photographer Christine Burke has won international acclaim with her dog portraits. Christine entered the International Photography Awards and has won an Honourable Mention and been invited to attend the spectacular Gala Awards evening at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Hossein Farmani, President of the IPA said, “In another tremendous year for IPA, we received thousands of highly qualified entries from all around the World and our esteemed international Jury Panel voted according to each entry’s originality, creativity, excellence of execution, and overall impact in their selected categories. The strength of this year’s entries made their task of selecting the winners very difficult indeed.”
Christine said, “I love creating dog portraits here in Warwickshire and to be representing Leamington on the international stage is just amazing!” Christine is based in Bishops Tachbrook and photographs trained and untrained dogs and it always involves lots of laughter!
Because I choose to work with Children and Animals I’m often referred to as mad! But honestly, there is no greater joy then creating something that I know my customer, their children and their children’s children will cherish for the rest of their lives!
Photography for me is a way of life and I love it! It’s not just what I do for a living here in Warwickshire. My time with my own family and lovely Lola give me endless opportunities to create portraits that hang on the walls of my own house in Bishops Tachbrook. Although it has to be said that portrait photographers children quickly grow out of the novelty of having a portrait photographer for a Mum! Here’s Marty my youngest son playing with Lola our rescue dog on the cliff tops in Cornwall.
We were recently lucky enough to spend a week in Cornwall. Although it is a long way from little old Leamington Spa the beautiful landscapes make it worth the trip. Everywhere is so dog friendly in Cornwall it makes it an ideal holiday location for families with dogs.
Rescue dog Lola playing in the rock pools on the beach in Cornwall
On the day we visited St Michael’s mount I was joined on the causeway by Denzel the Dachshund. His owners were very surprised at how he wanted to walk along between me and my sister. I had to confess that I have a natural affinity with dogs it’s not unusual for other peoples dogs to join me on a walk! I feel very honored every time a dog does this. It often results in peels of laughter when need to go our separate ways though! Here’s some images of Denzel the Dachshund!
Danzel the Dachshund on the causeway at St Micheal’s Mount in Cornwall in the winter sunshine.
Cornwall really is an amazing place to visit! Such beautiful scenery feeds this dog photographers soul and I hope our next visit there will be equally inspirational!
Its really important that we keep our dogs cool as the temperatures rise. The simplest way to do it is not walk them during the middle of day thats from around 11am -3pm. I also make sure that I walk them near water. This is me in Kenilworth in the stream near to Kenilworth Castle. Its a fantastic place to walk your dogs in any weather. The stream really is a big draw for any dog that enjoys splashing around. Spaniels, Labradors, German Shepherds, crossbreeds. In fact ALL the hunting breeds like the Italian Spinone or many Pointer types all love having a splash around here.
I always love to talk to my customers about their dogs and I couldn’t believe my ears when Paige started telling me about her two rescued Chihuahuas.
Groots Story :
Groot’s mother was pregnant with him when she was part of a household already overrun with Chihuahas, 82 to be exact! It’s a very sad story where eventuality the Police had to call in the RSPCA. An older couple had taken on just two chihuahuas puppies as pets, they never got round to neutering them and when the puppies started to arrive they loved them so much they just couldn’t give them up. The puppies grew and had more puppies and in the space of 4 years the couple had gone from having 2 pets to having 82!!! Its one of the largest cases of Dog Hoarding that the RSCPA has ever dealt with.
‘This was a classic hoarding situation but it was clear the couple had loved their dogs and things had simply got out of hand,’ says RSPCA Inspector Boal. ‘The couple had started out with two pet chihuahuas – Blue and Tinkerbell. Unfortunately, they didn’t get their dogs neutered and four years later, they had 82 dogs! ‘This was a really sad case but it was also a really memorable one for me due to the sheer number of dogs involved.”
The story has been featured on Chanel 5s Dog Rescuers programe and you can see an exert from it on the Independents website
The beautiful Gracie was rescued from a puppy farm when RSPCA inspectors stepped in to put a stop to their trade. Poor Gracie had been used as a breeding machine and had a number of litters before her new mum fostered her for a year during the rspca court case and then adopted her when she was signed over to the rspca.
Every year I enter the Guild of Photographers annual awards, I’ve previously come within a whisker of winning their Child Portrait Photographer of the Year, been awarded a Double Bar for my images in both the Pet Portrait and Children’s Portrait categories. The competitions are not easy to win and many involve submitting images every month over the course of year so your submission becomes a body of work, the photographer with the most points at the end of the year wins. The monthly competitions offer Gold ,Silver and Bronze Awards and I have won all three in both Pet Portrait & Child Portraiture. In years gone I have also won many regional awards with the Master Photographers Association (MPA) and made it into their UK finals as well. I was also greatly honored to be asked to give my permission for my qualifying panel to be taken on tour of the UK when I initially qualified some (some years ago now!). I’ve also won Gold Awards & Highly Commended Awards with the SWPP’s International Competition. Dogs Today Magazine have even given me the monocle of being one of the worlds best dog photographers!
This year I also entered the Guild of Photographer print competition. Here’s what the papers had to say!
“A Photographer from Bishops Tachbrook was the focus of praise at a National Awards event. Christine Lynne Burkes portraits of dogs at Kenilworth Castle and a lonesome tree at Burton Dassett were highlighted as being of an “exemplary standard” and narrowly missed taking top place in the annual print competition at the Guild of Photographers annual awards in Cheshire. Special mention was made of her professionalism, creativity, as well as the high quality of the printing and mounting. Christine said “To have your work judged in front of all the competitors a number of which had flown in from other countries, is a very exhilarating experience and to be the only photographer who was selected for special mention after the judging is a moment I shall never forget, making it into the final was simply amazing of itself being singled out afterwards was incredible.”
Do you LOVE IT when it snows? I do! When those beautiful crystals fall to earth and freeze in place, blanketing our beautiful Warwickshire landscape in a carpet of white (every photographers dream!) Whats not to love?! Kids off school, hubby off school and the chance to go sledging and create some fantastic family portraits. Leamington and the surrounding villages do not seem to get too much of the white stuff usually but every few years we get enough to really do something with. This time we decided to head to Burton Dassett Hills which is easy to get to for us as its just down the Banbury Road.
Burton Dassett was not as busy as we had expected it to be and it looked more like we had gone to Switzerland with its “mountains” and folk skiing and snowboarding! We arrived mid afternoon and the light was just beautiful. Fantastically blue skies and the type of cold you can feel nipping at any part of you that isn’t covered up! Just brilliant! Our wonderful rescue dog Lola LOVES the snow. She never ceases to amaze me, although she has collie in her she does not have a thick double coat but she doesn’t let the cold stop her! To be fair she does so much running around catching snowballs, chasing my boys and rolling in it that all the activity must keep her warm enough. You can see from the smile on her face just how much she loves it!
On the first day we also brought along Johnny who has been a constant and wonderful friend to my son Joe. Watching the boys and Lola play in the snow was a real slice of heaven! We went back for a second day of fun, the lighting was very different,there was no blue sky but the muted light made for a rather spectacular landscapes!
Being able to combine my passion for portraits and landscapes is just sooooo much fun. Cannot wait for it to snow again!
Why adopt a dog from abroad when we have dogs here that need adopting?
That’s the question I found myself asking when I was recently contacted by an old school friend (we both went to Trinity in Leamington Spa, famous for calling its teachers by the first names and no school uniform!) She had just adopted a dog from Paws 4 Homes Foundation in Cyprus. I have to admit, I did raise my eyebrows!
The session took place at Oakley Woods, just off the Banbury Road and was the perfect location for Juno, despite it being bitterly cold for the rest of us! Here are some of Juno’s portraits.
So with my curiosity peeked I looked them up. What an amazing thing they do for these dogs! Puppies, pregnant bitches and older dogs are constantly being dumped. Boxes of puppies are dropped over this rescue centers fences and pregnant bitches tied to the fencing at night are found in the morning. Then there are the cases of absolute neglect. Its heartbreaking.
Take a look at their Facebook page …
The wonderful Juno is probably a German Shepherd crossed with a Saluki and is bursting with energy!
This wonderful rescue dog was loving and attentive and eager to please and Jacqui’s family are doing a great job training her and on our way round the woods Jaqui told me Juno’s story.
Juno was abandoned at a cement works when she was just a tiny puppy. May even of been born there along with her brother, unfortunately he never made it (hit by a lorry). The cleaner at the works chased Juno for a week before she was able to rescue her and she brought her to Christina Charambolous at Paws 4 Homes Foundation.
Jacqui says “Christina arranged everything and brought Juno back to health. She was just 15kg when she arrived in the UK, just skin and bone. She is now a healthy 24kg – and still very food motivated!” She arrived on a flight to Bristol Airport in September and was greeted by torrential rain – something she had never seen before and then she had another first experience when she got home!
“We let her out into the garden – she hopped around like a bunny rabbit on the grass as she had never seen or walked on grass before. She is loving, attentive and eager to please. She has become a real member of our family and we just love her to bits!”
As a Dog and Child Portrait Photographer its wonderful to witness the love that a dog brings into family life.
Dogs are family too!
Adopting a dog from abroad is simpler then you might think. Whatever your views are on bringing rescue dogs in from abroad there is no denying that anyone doing so is genuinely helping these dogs. If you would like to learn more about Paws 4 Homes Foundation head over to their Facebook page.
And if YOU adopt a dog from Paws 4 Homes Foundation make sure you book in with me to have your new family members portraits taken and
I will donate the session fee to this wonderful organisation.
One thing I love to do is to meet people!
I find folk just so fascinating and to be honest as a photographer you have to love people because even if they are not your subject enjoying being with people is key to all types of portraits. Lately I had the pleasure of meeting Karren Brady, Alan Sugars right hand lady in The Apprentice.
She gave a very inspirational speech at the Motor Cycle Museum’s conference center near Birmingham,so not far from little Leamington Spa! What a speech it was. To be honest I wasn’t too sure what to expect after all I am not trying to build a multi million pound business, my goal in life is to produce beautiful portraits that will hang on my clients walls for generations to come. So what did I learn? Well…. She has overcome many hurdles in her life and had to put up with intense amounts of sexism. This is something I can directly relate to with having experienced it myself. Thankfully sexism does not raise its ugly head too often these days in my line of work. She is one one very strong and savy lady! Asked “What careers advice would you give to my teenage daughter” she suggested this website. Its well worth looking at!