It’s wildflower season and in Texas, that means bluebonnets. The bluebonnet is the state flower and people plant them everywhere so that for a few weeks in the early spring they are just about everywhere you look.
I went to a place near Fredericksburg that grows field of wildflowers. There are large fields of bluebonnets that are thankfully fenced off or everyone would trample them down to nothing. I took a few family pictures there and also took a few pictures for me by squatting down and shooting through the fence.
I am curious if using HDR with the field of flowers would produce a better image. It was not an extremely contrasted scene, and finding a nice blue sky on a weekend these days has been nearly impossible. So, there were mostly high white clouds in the sky, that would easily be overexposed if I was not careful, so I thought that HDR might help with the sky. I was not getting a histogram that clipped either end with my images though.
The first image below is a well exposed single photo with no clipping of highlights or shadows. In Ligthroom I brought the highlights down a bit and boosted the shadows. I also adjusted the hue of the blues slightly toward aqua to get what looked to me like a good representation of the color of the bluebonnets. They end up looking too purple in many photos that I see. The image does not have any clipped highlights and there is still some definition in the sky.
The next image is an HDR merge of 3 bracketed photos (-1EV, 0, +1EV). I merged the photos using Photomatix Pro and set for ‘natural’. I didn’t want wild amounts of artsy saturation; I just wanted it to look as real as possible. It is the same picture as above as the first image is just my middle exposure. Both were straightened by -0.19 degrees and both had a distant bird removed.
The HDR picture does give me a bit more depth and definition in the sky where it is just kind of washed out in the first image. The green parts of the plants and the green on the horizon are also much more lively in the HDR image.
The HDR probably wasn’t necessary for this image, but all of the additional information in the merged TIFF gave me a lot more capability to make adjustments to get the image that I wanted. I probably could have accomplished the same thing by opening the image in Photoshop as a couple of different layers and adjusting the sky separately, but that isn’t all that different from HDR really.
Cycle through the two images for yourself and tell me what you think.
Thanks, and I appreciate comments.
5 thoughts on “Field of Bluebonnets (HDR or no HDR)”
I’ve never heard of blue bonnets, are they scented. I think they look stunning en-masse.
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I haven’t noticed much of a fragrance. I mainly just think they are pretty and let me know that spring is here.
I always try to get a picture from low enough so that the flowers stack-up and look very dense.
One year I got a picture of some horses in the bluebonnets and I loved that picture. I have not that found that situation again.
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I’m a bit wary of HDR because I think that it’s very easy to make pictures look very unnatural. However your field of flowers certainly improves with the HDR treatment. The colours of both the sky and flowers are deeper and more intense.
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I agree with you that HDR can easily lead to very unnatural, cartoonish images. I try to be very careful to avoid this.
The thing that I like about HDR is that after the merge, it gives me much more adjustment range on things like highlights and shadow, or color saturation. It is a very fine line to avoid going over.
[…] large fields of wildflowers that I might like to photograph. You can see the bluebonnet pictures here. There were also some large fields of red corn poppies laid out in long […]