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Hallerbos: the enchanted forest

In this article, I will give you all the information you need to shoot the forest of Hallerbos. Hallerbos is well known among photographers for his amazing bluebells carpet that covers the entire forest. During a brief period of time in spring, the wood looks like a fairy tale. As I live quite close, I had the occasion to go multiple time and find out which weather or time of the day is best to capture beautiful pictures.

Where ?

Hallerbos is located approximately 30 km to the south of Brussels (Belgium). It’s easily accessible by car or by train (there is a free shuttle bus from Halle station to the forest). During the week, you can park right in the center of the forest which makes it’s quite easy. The week-end, the central road in the forest is close since it’s usually too crowded.  In any case, you can find all the information you need here : Accessibility to the wood in the flowering season of the bluebells.

When ?

First of all, you need to know that the flowering season is different every year since it highly depends on the weather.  For example, this year the best period to come was between the third week of April and the first week of may.  Thankfully, you can get daily update about the flowering on the website of Hallerbos.  If possible, avoid coming during the week-end since the forest is really busy. End of April is a safe bet if you need to book your trip in advance.

Which weather and time of the day is best ?

In my opinion, the best weather is a cloudless day at sunrise.  That’s simply the best moment to shoot the forest.  You will get some beautiful direct light that will create a warm glow on the leaves and cast shadows of the trees.  If you don’t know the forest, I encourage you to come for sunrise.  This way, you will have time to explore a bit and find some great compositions.  Usually, the best light start 30 minutes after sunrise when the sun is high enough to penetrate the forest.  After that, you have a window of approximately one hour to shoot before the light starts to be too strong.

Fog is also a great option for more intimate composition since it will make the forest less busy.  Sadly, we don’t get fog that often at that time of the year.  In any case, the forest is beautiful under any light especially if it’s cloudy.  I will avoid coming during the day when it’s sunny since the strong light makes the forest really difficult to shoot.  If you can, avoid windy days because the wind makes the flowers move and force you to use a higher shutter speed (which means higher iso)

 

Which gear should I bring ?

You don’t need much gear to shoot at Hallerbos.  The two most important piece of gear I use is a telephoto lens (70-200 mm or even longer) and a polarizer.  I find the use of  long focal length important to create composition without the top of the tree and the sky.  It’s also difficult to use a wide-angle lens because you can’t go too close to the flowers without damaging them.  The polarizer help to cut some reflections on the flowers and make them look more saturated and vivid.

I will also bring a tripod and a fast prime lens.  If you own one, take your macro lens for close up shots of the bluebells.

Any recommendations ?

Strictly follow the path and don’t leave them.  The flowers are really fragile and won’t grow again the year after if you walk on then.  It’s really important to respect this rule to let the forest in good state for the others.

If you need more information : check out the official website : https://www.hallerbos.be/en/

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