Archive for March, 2012

Elusive Wildflowers Part 1 – Hepatica

In the event that I get crap out of the camera tomorrow, here’s what I shot today.  All three were shot with my old Olympus 90mm.

The Court

It’s round-lobed hepatica, a very early riser in the spring wildflower pantheon.  And one I’ve never shot before.  The name refers to the leaves which are quite distinctive and so I couldn’t keep them out of my compositions –

d'Artagnan

Hopefully tomorrow is sunny enough so that they bloom.  Even with them in a nodding position, they are lovely to behold.  Like spring beauties (a similar flower) they are very small and stay nearly buried in leaf-litter most of the time.  The leaves as you can, see, turn a lovely red color and overwinter like that.  I loved the idea of using one as a background and when I saw the arrangement above I went through my usual contortions to capture it.  So hard not to squash other flowers.  Here’s a shot of one that is showing a lavender variation (no color correction needed, btw!) and its old leaf in front.  I love the color combinations of these shots.  Not what is normally seen with wildflowers.

Aramis

Each plant bears a single flower and so when I found big groups of them I took note of the location for tomorrow.  I hope I can get them flowering and in dappled sunlight.  That would just be so great.  So, here’s hoping!

 


The Color Purple and the Digital Camera

By now most of you have caught on that this isn’t a technical photography blog, but that I’m not above putting out a little know-how if I think it could be useful.  With wildflower season approaching, I think you flower shooters will like this one – purple flowers looking blue and how to fix it!  This drives me crazy and I’ve actually gotten into arguments with people about it, with them usually insisting the flower actually was blue.  Uh, no folks it wasn’t – they’re called violets, not blues ok?  That’s a different topic though – what we’re going to tackle now is a wicked easy way to color correct your flower pictures.

Now, without getting all techy on you a hell of a lot goes into managing color in digital photography and I’m not going to get all preachy about it.  Let’s assume you have calibrated your monitor to the best of your ability.  Let’s take it as read that you’ve selected the proper white balance when you were shooting.  Still have blue flowers?  It’s not your fault.  It’s the sensor.  In a nutshell, digital sensors have a difficult time seeing, rendering and processing purple and often put out pure blue instead.  If you want the techy reasons Google is your friend and there is no shortage of articles about it.  Even film had trouble reproducing purple accurately.  Mostly it has to do with the color purple itself being made up of red and blue, two colors on opposite ends of the color spectrum and digital sensors, even very modern ones, have trouble.  It’s been a thorn in our collective sides for years.  A quick Google search pulls up a ton of people asking why their purple flowers look blue.

I find it’s most obvious when shooting in the shade, which, let’s face it, is where a lot of us prefer to shoot wildflowers.  Harsh sunlight is not our friend.  Shots in sunlight are more accurate, but often can be a bit off, too.  Some people also report that using an IR or UV filter makes the problem more extreme, so if you’re using one on your camera, remove it when photographing purple wildflowers.

I’m going to use this shot of chicory to illustrate my process.  I was shooting in the shade of a tree on a sunny day, I have made some changes like contrast, sharpening and cropping and kept those all the same, only varying the adjustment I want to highlight in each example.  Here’s the starting shot –

A lot of people will tell you that all you need to do is adjust your white balance and you’ll be all set.  Well, yes and no. If your purple flower is basically purple, just a little cool, changing the WB will probably work a treat.  If your flower looks really blue like the shot up there, adjusting ONLY white balance may get to a color approaching what you saw in your purple flower, but it won’t be exact.   And just look what it does to the rest of the shot –

The quick and easy fix for this lies in your HSL panel (I’m using Lightroom, but many other robust editors also have this functionality, you just need to find it). Each color has a control with the cool end of the the range to the left and warm to the right.  To make blue purple we need to increase the amount of red which means sliding to the right (warm). How far you drag your slider depends on how off your color is.  You could also use the targeted selection tool (that little bullseye under Hue) and put your mouse right on the blue color and then use the arrow keys to make the adjustment, but it’s not necessary for most shots where the color you want to change is clearly differentiated.

Here’s the finished shot with the color dialed in as close as I can come to what it was IRL (and I kept the flower handy to compare which is great if you can do it). Remember, all other factors are equal; overall saturation, white balance, sharpening, contrast, all of it the same.  Only the color slider is changed –

You eagle-eyed folks will have spotted some chromatic aberration where the purple and the green meet.  I’ve found this occurs fairly often with this combination even with lenses that don’t throw color aberration at any other time.  Yep, there’s a wicked techy explanation for it, but I won’t give it to you here (Google is your friend if you want to know why).  Using LR 3 I could probably correct this, but Adobe in their wisdom decided to make this correction tied to lens profiles only in LR 4 and they can’t be bothered to include a single piece of Olympus hardware in their application.  Thanks guys.  I love being given short shrift.  But anyway, you folks with mainstream cameras can probably fix this easily.

Here’s one more comparo for you and it really shows why they’re called Violets and not Blues (and how even in bright sun digital sensors can be confused by purple). All  I did was adjust the hue and luminance values with the blue and purple sliders and although that makes it seem like I adjusted the green channel, I didn’t.  Scout’s Honor.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?  Easy peasy.  Use the technique with that other bane of the digital sensor – magenta and dark pink.  It never looks right out of the camera and it’s always HSL panel to the rescue!


Up to my old tricks

One of my favorite things about the woods is finding the unexpected.  Around here conservation land usually has a past, meaning it hasn’t always been conservation land.  A lot of it has been logged, farmed, lived on, mined and used for lots of other things, often yielding up its secrets decades later.  This bridge isn’t necessarily one of them, but the nearby stone loading bay full of trash from before the days of plastic is.  Passing by on the road you’d never know either was there unless you looked.

Time Marches On

Time Stands Still

And what would a trek through the woods on old roads be without an abandoned car?

Further on up the Road

Breakdown

Heading

The roads leading to this site haven’t been passable in decades, but enough of them remain so you can imagine a little of what it was like.  I love finding stuff like this even though I’m a nature girl at heart.  Maybe it’s because of the way nature reclaims its ground.  How it weathers, ages and reduces in grandeur the works of man.  Except for those glass bottles.   Those will probably last forever.


A Moment of Macro

Earlier today I took a quick stroll around the yard, looking at this and that, checking on things that might be emerging.  It’s not officially spring, but it sure feels like it out there.  We’ve got spring peepers peeping already and I saw a garter snake around the 10th.  Amazing.

Anyway, on my quick stroll (believe me…I’ve got a tiny yard) I noticed that some moss had already sent up little pods containing spores.  These are one of my latest obsessions and I’m going to make you all sick of moss before long.  ; P

Hats Off

I loved the light and the contrasting colors.  And look how each pod is losing its little paper hat.  Soon the spores will be free.  Each tiny stalk is only an inch high (give or take a smidge) and so slender as to be almost invisible when you look down.  I had to run my hand gently over the top to make sure they were really there.  Except when the sun hits them just right that is.  Shot with my trusty Olympus 90mm macro at about f8 if memory serves.  Anyway, I hope you like it and hopefully I’ll have more shots to share soon.  If anyone can point me to a good moss ID website, I’d sure appreciate it.


Passion’s Ebb

It’s as much a part of being a photographer as clicking the shutter – the ebb.  Maybe not exactly an ebb, but a slack tide kind of time.  The time between the rushing. When things are still.  Calm.  I used to resent my ‘photographic funks’, but now I sort of relish them.  I think it was when I stopped beating myself up about them that it happened – the allowing.  The forgiveness.  It used to be a belief of mine that if you were really passionate about something, the passion was constant.  Now, I’m not using the word really as in very, I’m using it as in genuine.  As in I genuinely believed that if a person had a genuine passion for something the level of that passion stayed the same.

Bollocks.

(damn I wish I was English sometimes…they have all the great slang.  Oh sorry.)

Ahem.  Bullshit.  (now that’s American!)

Passion waxes and wanes.  It’s natural.  It’s normal.  Because your enthusiasm for something has gone off the raging boil and into a mellow simmer does not mean you’ve lost it.  It doesn’t mean you’re not dedicated.  It doesn’t mean you’re weak.  It doesn’t mean you lack depth.  It doesn’t mean you’re a poseur.  It means you’re human.

And human passion fluctuates.  Can you imagine being a raging photographer all the time?  Going out every day to shoot shoot shoot.  Filling 16 and 32gb cards.  Constant uploading, downloading, processing,  printing.  Ugh.  Yah.  I get it now why passions wax and wane.  Boring.  Uninspiring.  Monotonous.  Burdensome.

When shit I love becomes a chore, I know it’s time to hang it up for a while.  It’s like when you binged on your favorite snack when you were a kid and got your first taste of spending your own money.  How fast did that once favorite treat become totally gross and like you’d never want to see it again, ever?

You think that would have taught me.  But it didn’t and I used to beat myself up about my periodic low points in photography.  This was especially true when I worked in a photo store (remember them???).  I thought that I should be carrying a torch.  I actually felt bad if I didn’t have a roll of film or two every week to analyze and frustrate myself over.  Like I had to show everyone who walked in the store how life-fulfilling and soul-kindlingly awesome photography was and how every minute of every day should be spent in the pursuit of this most amazing art form.

Yah right.

Now I go with the flow of my own impulses and if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t push it.  I won’t get anything good going out with that attitude anyway.  I know that now.  Part of my downtime includes a bit of a disconnect with the online photography community as well.  I get overloaded and saturated with images and images and more images to the point where I can’t appreciate any of them anymore.  Where’s the fun in that?

And isn’t that the point?  That your passion be fun?  I mean, life is too short for agony over art anymore.  Passion and enthusiasm and the desire to explore and create images should be bubbly and fizzy inside.  It should tickle your brain and load endorphins into your system, not feel like you’re trying to carry 10 suitcases though the airport without wheels or handles.

So…what do I do with my passion’s ebb?  Lately I’ve been reading a lot more than my usual book a week or so.  McGrath.  Highsmith.  Dickens. Shelley.  Rice.  Stoker.  I’ve started a new exercise program to do on the days I don’t go out for my cardio workout.   And when my mind turns to photography, it’s to concepts and things I want to try and places I want to go.  I joined about two dozen other people on a botanist-led tour through one of my favorite micro-environments – the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and lo – I turned into a photographer for a second!

Winter Cedars

So the next time you find yourself in a photographic funk, don’t sweat it.  Don’t let it get you down.  Use the time to indulge your other passions.  You do have them, right?  Remember the other stuff you loved before you just had to have that bright, shiny DSLR?  Go do that stuff.  Have fun.  Feel fizzy.  And when your photographic tide returns, you’ll be renewed and just dying to go out and make the images you’ve been dreaming of in the passion’s ebb.