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.

Foxgloves | Sony A58 | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro | Multiple exposure

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.

Foxgloves II | Sony A58 | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro | Multiple exposure

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.

Foxgloves III | Sony A58 | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro | Multiple exposure

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 IV | Sony A58 | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro | Multiple exposure

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.

Foxgloves V | Sony A58 | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro

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

7 thoughts on “Foxgloves

  1. Thank you Jo for another interesting and informative blog. I too love foxgloves and I’m lucky enough to have them grow naturally in various odd spots in my garden. Following your helpful advice I’ve been having a go at multiple exposure (in camera) with autumn leaves and with some pleasing results. Your shots are always interesting and inspiring, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you John, how lovely to have them naturalised in the garden. I have scattered seed harvested from plants in a neighbours garden so I hope they will be happy a few doors down in mine! I’m delighted that you have found some of the advise useful. Thanks so much for you kind comments. Jo x


  2. Hi Jo,

    Thank you for your inspiring foxglove blog. I m starting to practise the skills in Photoshop. With Multiple exposures. Like you My Sony AR mark 2 does not do multiples ! There are loads ways in Photoshop and Lightroom.– I admire your artistic brilliance.

    Just before lockdown I purchased an a3 lightpad . I use flat and as a background vertically. Having lots fun with this. Had a 1st and 3rd i My Camera Club with a Foxglove image and Lily image, recently.

    I have a number of acceptances in Salons and aiming to gain awards–letters after name.

    Are you in a camera Club? My Club in South Wales is Gwynfa — biggest in Wales!

    Have a look on the website, if you have time.

    We are in lockdown here in Rhondda Cynon Taff!! However I am lucky In live on a small farm . We only do horse livery now.

    Best wishes– stay safe Jo

    Gill Jones


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments about my photography. Its interesting that the AR m2 doesn’t have in camera multiple exposure either, I don’t think it really matters though as I imagine it’s the same software either in camera or on the computer. Though I would still love to experiment with the in camera function.

      It sounds like you are making waves with you photography! I don’t belong to a Camera Club. I spend most of my free time in the woods. I will go and have a look at the website for yours though, thanks.

      It must be wonderful living on a small farm, I imagine it makes the lockdown much easier too, I know I have been enormously grateful for the bluebell woods and chalk downs throughout the spring and summer here. We aren’t locked down in Dorset, but one never knows what is around the corner.

      Keep safe too, Gill, best wishes X


  3. This is so lovely Jo, both to read and view. Calming, uplifting and inspiring. I will return to this blog when I feel the need to be reminded of nature and how it is part of us. I love the name floppydock by the way. I’ve never heard of it prior to your blog but might well adopt it from now on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful photos! These are also some of my favorite wildflowers. I have always been surprised that such beautiful flowers are poisonous to people and animals!! I even had to remove them from my pasture for the safety of my horses, although they were very beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, it’s such a shame you had to remove them, but for the best I’m sure. They are just flowering now in my local woods, I hope to add some more images soon.


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