On Friday 18 April I arrived in Hallerbos (‘The blue forest’ in Dutch); a mixed forest located a few kilometres southwest of Brussels, Belgium. It was raining and I was told that the previous week had also been very rainy. My mission here is to photograph this forest and the carpet of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) which are at their best between mid- and late April.
Soon after getting this assignment from Wild Wonders of Europe, I went here for a few days last year just to have a look and was really impressed by the amazing spectacle of the wild hyacinths blooming in their thousands on the forest floor. The first time you see them you simply cannot believe your eyes, but I must confess that also this time the blue carpet under the beech trunks impressed me again; it is a really unique natural phenomenon.
Many people come here to walk, run, play, or take pictures under the light green canopy of the Hallerbos beech trees, but not many of them know how fascinating and complex biology of the bluebells.
A healthy bluebell forest is sustained by vast, creeping underground networks of fungal hyphae that are closely related with bluebell bulb roots. The fungi that associate with the bluebells’ roots provide minerals to their hosts and get sugars from the plants in exchange.
Without this mutual help between fungi and plants it is doubtful if bluebells could form such dense populations in the forest.
The day after my arrival I was in the forest very early, well before dawn, ready to get the better light. I was lucky, because after the rain of the previous day a nice mist wrapped the tree trunks while the first light was arriving, and so I could get some nice, atmospheric shots.
I like to take pictures of the forest when trees are shrouded in mist or fog, because this enhances the sense of depth in the picture and gives the image that special sense of mystery.
I work early in the morning and late in the evening when the light is at its best and use the rest of the day to explore the forest.
After getting a map and useful information at the Nature Reserve office I found a very beautiful promising location with lots of Allium ursinum and Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), whose thick carpets surround a small, winding stream. There are just green leaves and buds at the moments as the flowers of both species of plants are not out yet, but I think that in a few days they should be at their best. I will be waiting, as I cannot loose this wonderful opportunity.
In the meantime I will concentrate on the bluebells. Stay tuned and I will soon be back with more from Hallerbos.
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.