The Hallerbos, south of Brussels, is Belgium’s blue forest. Each spring a carpet of bluebells makes it a magical place for photographers and nature-lovers.
Hallerbos (Dutch) or Bois de Hal (French) is a public forest in Belgium, mostly situated in the municipality of Halle, in Flemish Brabant. It is located about 15km south of Brussels, within Flanders. The forest is a beautiful place for a walk at any time of the year, but for a few weeks in spring, it has a magical transformation. Hallerbos, also known as The Blue Forest, is carpeted with a sea of blue flowers and is sought out by photographers and nature lovers.
The Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a spring-flowering bulbous perennial plant with flowers shaped like tiny bells. They thrive under the beech trees of the Hallerbos in late April.
Photographing the Hallerbos is challenging. First, you must get your timing right. If you visit too early in the season, the bluebells will be sparse. If you visit too late, the flowers will be spent and the forest returns to a typical woodland. As the peak season for the bluebells changes every year, depending on the weather, it can take several visits to the Hallerbos before you see the blue carpet it all its glory. You can never completely predict Mother Nature.
The second challenge is the fact that everyone wants to visit the Hallerbos at this time of year. Having tourists and other photographers in your photo can detract from the scene (for tips on avoiding this problem, see my article on photographing gardens).
The Hallerbos is a busy park at the best of times. There are trails not only for walkers but also for cycling and horseback riding as well.
As with all outdoor photography, the best light occurs in Hallerbos early and late in the day, when shadows are longer and the contrast between light and dark is less harsh. With patience, you can achieve lovely lighting filtering through the leaves of the trees.
If you want to photograph macro images of the bluebells, you can take advantage of an overcast Belgian day for a nice even light without harsh contrast.
Whether you visit the Hallerbos with your camera or just your walking shoes, it is well worth a trip in the springtime to see this magical event.