As I sit here and the rain lashes against the window panes I am casting my mind back to the long hot days of the summer and the beauty of the foxgloves that greated me on walks on the downs and in the woods. So I thought I would create a post this week about one of my favourite summer flowers and how I photograph them.
The foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is known by many country names; foxes gloves, fairy fingers, witches glove, fairy caps, goblin’s fingers, fairy thimbles, and dead man’s bells are but a few. The prefix fox most likely originated as a derivation of the word “folk” and the glove part of the name from the anglo saxon “gliew” which describes the ringing of bells.
Traditionally the foxglove has been associated with the faery folk, who can be tempted into your garden should you plant them there. Picking these plants is considered unlucky and bringing it into the home can invite the devil in. In Norse legends there are tales of foes wearing the purple flowers around their necjs as bells whose ringing would provide protection from huntsmen and their hounds. When the tall flower spikes bend their heads in the wind they are said to be acknowledging the passing of a otherworldly presence.
The plant grows best on acidic soils and in a variety of habitats. It can grow in the open but also in deep shade and can be found in woodlands, heathlandss, moorland, clearings, hedgerows and rocky mountainous habitats as well as sea-cliffs. It is a perennial and in it’s first year of growth produces large downy leaves, which have given rise to names such as bunny rabbits and floppydock. In its second year the plant will produce long flower spikes that can grow as tall as a person. In the wild the flowers are purple, pink and white and can all shades can often be found together in groups as the flowers freely cross pollinate.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, to us and also to our pet dogs and cats and livestock, though the foxglove has long been used as a medicinal plant. The digitalis extracted from the plant has been used to treat problems of the heart since the 18th century. The glycosides found in the foxglove are used to lower high blood pressure and can tone and strengthen the heartbeat. The leaves of the plant have also been used to dress wounds when applied as a poultice.
The foxglove is the food plant of the heath fritillary butterfly. The flowers, which bloom in June to September, are pollinated by bublebees, who can regularly be seen crawling into the bell like flowers. Six of our native moths are also associated with the foxglove and feed on the foliage, these include the foxglove pug, lesser yellow underwing, Fen square-spot, purple clay, frosted orange and the small square spot.
Foxgloves are a delight to photograph, often found in dappled shade this makes it simple to create bokeh and interested creative effects shooting into the light source. I really love to use multiple exposures to capture the nodding flower spikes. As I can’t do this “in-camera” in the field, I will capture the layers individually and then blend them in Photoshop when I get home.
I like to take several still images of the plants, and these will form he base of the final image. Often these will be varied by moving either my position or the focal length slightly, or standing still and allowing the breeze to move the flowers during the exposure. Then I will take several ICM (intentional camera movement) images which I will add as layers to the static shot(s). I will then also process the images in Lightroom, making fine adjustments to the saturation, colour balance and highlights, and occasionally split toning.
All of the images in this post were taken within a few miles of my village home in north Dorset. In the wood pasture and on the chalk downland of a nearby ancient settlement. I am hoping that maybe this year I may have success at growwing them in my garden and be able to take foxglove images with the smallest carbon footprint possible. And maybe also encourage even more pollinators (and perhaps faeries) to visit my garden too.
Thank you for reading, Jo x