Photographing Wild Flowers in the Open

It is always a pleasure to take a stroll at Garry Point in early summer, although summer comes a bit late this year. A wide-open park at the mouth of Fraser River, Garry Point has perhaps the largest stretches of wild lupines in the greater Vancouver area, which are in full bloom this time of the year. The sandy ground of the park is also dotted by many other wild flowers. Therefore, besides being an ideal place to watch sunset and enjoy the view of the Fraser River and the Gulf Islands, the park offers abundant photo opportunities in early summer to anyone interested in flower photography.

But there are a couple of common problems for taking flower photos in the open. One is the wind and the other is the background, both of which are difficult to control. The wind is particularly strong at Garry Point due to its seaside location, making a sharp photo a hard mission to accomplish in the first place. Even if the wind is miraculously weak, wild flowers usually grow at places where other wild plants also flourish, which makes lousy background; and a tidy, bokeh-friendly background is always a must for good flower photos.

I was faced with these problems when I tried to photo some bright wild flowers at Garry Point yesterday. To deal with the wind, I pulled my bike to the windward side of the flowers and put my jacket on the bike so that the wind was partly blocked.  That worked. For the background, I had no choice but to shoot the flowers together with whatever wild plants nearby. Using shallow depth of field is not always a good idea because it would also leave a great part of the flowers out of focus. So I opted for post processing to deal with that.

Below is how one of the photos I took looks before I dealt with its background (f/11, ISO320, 1/200 s). Look how messy the background is, and even at f/11, the flower in the middle and part of the left one are not in focus. However, I managed to have the main flower (the right one) and the ladybug in focus.

In Photoshop, I processed it in the following steps:

1. make a copy layer of the background layer;

2. use the quick select tool to quickly select the six main flowers and their stems on the copy layer and make the selection a new layer on top of the copy layer;

2. use the motion blur tool to blur the copy layer (angle=90; distance=280);

3. add an adjustment layer to the copy layer to cool down the colors a bit, the effect of which is to reduce the halo around the flowers created by the motion blur and make the background a bit cool in color in contrast to the warm colors of the flowers.

Now the background of the flower looks a lot more artsy:

This is another photo that I post processed in a similar way:

If the angle of the motion blur is not 90 degree, the effect looks a bit different:

Either way, the original messy background is turned into a better looking, subject-enhancing texture.  I like the effect.


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