Early this morning, I was out in the garden taking more pictures of plants I’ve already obsessively photographed, when this tiny lizard yelled at me from inside my Concord Grapevine and asked about doing a photoshoot. This was a very unusual thing: these lizards are often skittish around humans and typically scurry out of camera range, but this one wanted to hang with me and pose for a few shots. He said he was after a greater social media presence and for some reason thought I might be able to help.
He was a little shy about the camera at first (aren’t we all?) but quickly got into the swing of things and watched me, warily, as I moved around the vine, got closer and closer, and click-click-clicked. I was experimenting with an inexpensive (but very functionable) LED unit attached to my camera’s flash shoe, and his eyes kept following the light. He may have been a bit dazzled… you know: bright lights, big city, fifteen minutes of fame, and all that jazz….
Anyway… he stayed among the grapevine leaves for close to an hour and I took about fifty photos. He approved these nine for public release. Now he wants to be on Instagram….
I learned something new while processing the photos for this gallery, as they came out of the camera looking like this:
I loaded about fifty images of the flower into Lightroom and deleted those that were out of focus, then started making adjustments to get better contrast and color out of this over-saturated blue. I’ve owned several Sony digital cameras and have often found that, regardless of white balance settings, the cameras render cooler-than-actual colors — which usually show up in the photos as bluish cast that’s easily stripped out using Lightroom or other tools, and often doesn’t need to be adjusted at all. Still… this blue seemed over-the-top and as I was working on the fourth or fifth photo, a question popped: is the President Clematis blue? I was already indoors of course so I did a search for President Clematis images… only to find a mix of blue, purple, and violet flower pictures along with a few of unrecognizable color. So I did what I should have done in the first place: I went outside and looked at the actual flowers.
So… a fine side-effect to manually choosing exposure characteristics and white balance (instead of using the camera’s automatic settings) is that you know what you did, and, more or less, why you did it. Outdoor light changes constantly and with macro lenses the changes can have a significant effect; but it’s also true that the photos in both galleries were taken on the same day, at around the same time, with about the same lighting, and with similar camera settings. I didn’t have any problems with the Bernadine Clematis colors, only those on the President Clematis.
Some folks reading this may already know the punch line, but I didn’t. I kept the photos I had already taken, and went back outside to figure out what had happened. It was a little disconcerting: my right eye, looking through the camera’s viewfinder, saw blue; my left eye, peeking around the camera, saw purple. I was pretty sure my eyes weren’t broken, so I started changing camera settings and found that the only way I could get the camera to render the flowers as purple was to manually set an extremely warm white balance — getting an almost exact match for the purple in the flowers, but also casting yellow over everything else in the photo. Corrections in Lightroom didn’t fix that: adjusting white balance there to try to compensate simply slid the flowers back from violet and purple to blue. What a hoot!
As it turns out, digital cameras can be color-challenged when reproducing colors in the purple-to-violet range, and the color shifts even more toward blue as the intensity of violet color increases. See, for example, Why are My Purple Flowers Blue? — which shows an image with a nearly identical color misinterpretation as mine. After trying numerous color adjustments, I learned from The Color Purple and the Digital Camera to start by adjusting the blue hue first…
… and decreasing purple saturation since the color was so intense. These adjustments got me closer to the original color as my eyes saw it, and I could then keep the flower color in check while making additional exposure and color adjustments so that the background elements still looked right. The President Clematis blooms don’t last very long; all of the blooms in these pictures have since blown away so I was glad to have gotten it sorted. I still think a few of the photos in this set ended out with some slightly unnatural colors; but let’s just say that was a creative choice. 🙂
Select the first image to begin a slideshow; thanks for reading and taking a look!
Oh, and another surprise. I usually only get a handful of blooms from this plant, all at about the same time in mid- to late-April… but this year it looks like there may be more!
I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past few weeks taking pictures of emerging buds and blooms, especially those springing from several potted clematis vines in my garden … so much fun that on a recent trip to a local Home Improvement Store, I snagged two new plants for a pair of pots on my back deck.
The gallery below shows a Bernadine Clematis — a variety I had not seen before — already in bloom. The flower’s large petals range in color from pale blue to pale violet. The color variations among flowers on the same vine fascinate me, especially where you can see distinct beige or light yellow striping through the center of some petals, as well as a slight shift in the colors of the central structure. Since newly opening flowers don’t show either the striping or center color shift, I’m assuming the colors change as the bloom ages … but it will be a couple more weeks before I know for sure. Most of the larger flowers have fallen off and the new ones (like the first two below) don’t show the additional colors yet.
The last image in this gallery got some special treatment that I’ll write about in an upcoming before-and-after post. For now, I’ll just say the flower was pretty much spent, but a little creative magic restored its original character.
Another gallery featuring images of a President Clematis — whose rich purple and violet hues presented me with some new photo processing challenges that I’ll describe in that post — will be up in the next day or two.
If you would like to see the previous posts showing my clematis transitioning from vines to unopened buds to flowers, they’re here: