How to shoot picture-perfect Texas bluebonnets and wildflowers

On sunny days, take photos in the early morning or later in the day. Bright sunlight will wash out the vibrant colors of bluebonnets and other wildflowers. Stock photo

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BURNET — This spring is setting up to be a beautiful bluebonnet and wildflower season, and many people are hoping to get some great shots of the blooms.

But every year, you take several photos of a field of magnificent bluebonnets only to get home, download the images and say “oh, no” to the results.

It just seems impossible to capture the photo you imagined. But don’t give up. With a few simple adjustments, you can enjoy more “wow” moments when it comes to your wildflower and nature photography.

On March 12, Brian and Shirley Loflin, two professional photographers and nature writers, shared their “secrets” with folks at the Herman Brown Free Library.

“A lot of people want to know how we do it and what our secrets are,” Brian said. “Well, some of the things are quite easy. It’s not about the camera but the person behind it.”

One of the first things the Loflins say wildflower photographers should change is how they stand. Many people just stand over the flowers and take photos. This makes for undramatic and even dull images because the blooms look more like dots than actual flowers.

DON'T DO THIS: Standing up and taking photos of bluebonnets doesn’t make for good photos. This is what photographer Brian Loflin refers as the 5-foot-7-inch complex. He recommends getting down to the bluebonnets' level and ‘in their world.’ Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
DON’T DO THIS: Standing up and taking photos of bluebonnets doesn’t make for good photos. This is what photographer Brian Loflin refers as the 5-foot-7-inch complex. He recommends getting down to the bluebonnets’ level and ‘in their world.’ Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

It’s an easy situation to correct.

“We like to get down,” Brian said. “One of the things to avoid is the 5-foot-7 photo — you know, when you stand up erect.”

The Loflins advocate that photographers get down to the plant’s level.

“Whatever it is you have to do, get down in their world,” Brian said “Get out of our world and get into their world.”

Even if you’re taking a photo of a field of bluebonnets or other wildflowers, the Loflins recommend kneeling or squatting down a bit to bring some of the flowers into the foreground while the rest ease into the background.

But don’t just stop there. A photo of one or two wildflowers can really pop. So get down even closer.

Once you settle on your photographic setup, stabilize your camera. Brian recommends using a tripod, which eliminates the camera from moving while taking a photo. If you’re holding a camera in your hand and drop the shutter speed to below 1/100th of a second, you risk the camera shaking, which gives you blurred photos.

On sunny days, take photos in the early morning or later in the day. Bright sunlight will wash out the vibrant colors of bluebonnets and other wildflowers. Stock photo
On sunny days, take photos in the early morning or later in the day. Bright sunlight will wash out the vibrant colors of bluebonnets and other wildflowers. Stock photo

Next, clean up the area. Remove debris, weeds jutting across the field of view, things sticking up behind the flowers and such.

The Loflins refer to this as the “Hoover” step.

“We clean the area up of debris and extraneous things,” Shirley said.

Now with your camera set up on a tripod and the area cleared of extra materials, it’s time to frame your subject. You might be tempted to put the flower or other subject dead center in the frame, but the Loflins cautioned against doing so. Instead, Brian says to break up the frame into thirds (imagine three lines running horizontally across the film plane at equal distances apart and three lines running vertically across the frame.) Then, move the camera so the subject sits in one of the areas where the lines cross. Photographers refer to this as the “rule of thirds.”

It makes for more dynamic photos, he explained. Other tips includes using lines (such as roads, trees or other items) to lead people’s eyes into the photo.

The Loflns also discussed the importance of lighting. Don’t rush out at high noon or on bright days to photograph flowers. The bright sun tends to wash out the subject’s color on film or the sensor. Instead, the Loflins advise choosing overcast days (also known as diffused light) to photograph wildflowers. On days of full sun, good times to photograph are during the early morning (when the sun is just creeping over the horizon) and later in the day.

But even on days of full sun, with a little ingenuity and some thin, white cloth you can create an “overcast” day. Place the cloth (you’ll probably need someone to hold it) between the sun and the subject. Play with the distance from the subject or flower to determine the best effect.

Finally, the Loflins said getting good — even great — photos doesn’t happen in just 10-15 minutes of shooting. Sometimes it takes one or more hours of using good photographic techniques and moving around (sometimes a step to the left or the right) to find the right angle or perspective.

But when you show these photos to your friends, you’ll hear some “Wows” and “How did you do that?”

And as Brian pointed out, when it comes to photography, Shirley’s favorite thing to do to is “turn chaos into art.”

Go to bkloflin.wordpress.com for more photography tips and ideas from the Loflins. Plus, you can see some examples of great photography.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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