Capturing Alpine Wildflowers Part Two

7 Sep

Today we are concluding my two-part series on the technical art of capturing alpine wildflowers.  Let’s jump right into it and talk about some advanced techniques for creating dynamic pictures.

Focus Blending to Create Depth of Field – There are many varieties of this technique available for landscape photographers and I found this one works best for me.  My default area for focusing on an image is centered about one-third of the way into the frame. I’ll refocus and take the same image focused on the extreme foreground and then a third focus point and picture on the background subject matter as well.

After adjusting the exposure, tone, and white balance in RAW, I’ll open my primary image in Photoshop.  I do the same thing for the second image I captured, keeping the settings the same.  I then copy and paste the second image into the same frame as the first one.  Next, I make sure the images are properly aligned by selecting both and using the auto align tool.  Keep in mind, sometimes the tool doesn’t do a perfect job on the first attempt. Zoom in close and double-check the results and rerun the tool if you aren’t satisfied. Once your images are properly aligned,  use an inverse mask on the second image and brush in the parts of the image that are sharper in the foreground.  Please keep in mind this can get kind of tricky when dealing with wildflowers because just the slightest breeze can cause movement in the flowers.  Once you are happy with your results save the file. It is important not do any cropping yet.

Next I flatten the image file into one and repeat the steps using the third image captured for the background.  Normally this step is a little bit easier because there usually isn’t as much detail in the background as there is in a foreground.  Once you are happy with the results you can then begin your regular editing.  I prefer to save the cropping for last during my workflow.

Micro Blending – Micro blending is sub category of blending for depth of field. The technique is pretty much the same as the one I just described, except you are specifically blending for one small part of the image.  Let me give you an example.  Suppose you completed the steps above and your wildflowers look good. You then notice a couple of errant flowers that show movement from a slight breeze. You go back and review all of your shots of the scene and because you bracketed,  you find a shorter exposure that has those flowers rendered more in focus.  What you can do is adjust the settings in ACR to match your current picture setting and open that image up, follow the above steps and blend in just the flowers you need.

I hope this explanation of my depth of field blending techniques is useful to you. If so, or if you have any other comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. Have a wonderful Labor Day Holiday.


2 Responses to “Capturing Alpine Wildflowers Part Two”

  1. Steve Schwartzman September 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    To limit motion I use fairly high shutter speeds, often 1/320 or 1/400 of a second. To compensate, I have to use ISOs of 400 to 800, and that often gives me a lot of noise in the sky. If I were to noise-reduce the whole image in Adobe Camera Raw, I’d lose too much detail in the main parts of my subject. To deal with that, I’ve been blending two versions of the picture, one with no noise reduction and the other with lots of noise reduction. I use a mask created by selecting for blue, corresponding to which I keep the noise-reduced image. Everywhere else I keep the version without noise reduction.

    Steve Schwartzman

  2. wildmoments September 13, 2011 at 10:57 am #


    Thanks for your comments. I do the same thing with the luminance slider. For the sky, I sometimes go up to about 80 and then just hand blend another version without any luminance noise reduction. It can create banding, but is normally an effective way of cleaning up noise. I found just using the lasso tool to selectively remove sky noise in photoshop works well too. I also have the plugin for noise ninja, which has a mind of its own, but works great for skies.

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