What does white balance have to do with your photography?

In the nature club I belong to, we recently heard about the site iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/) where you can post your nature photos for both identification and documentation of wildlife, plants and insects. I thought it sounded like a superb thing to do and they were also having a period of time this month to document biodiversity in the world. Sounded like a cool personal project!

All photos would be mapped based on where you took the photo and they would be identified, even if you personally could not identify the species. What a great way to keep a log of your finds and an easy way to get help with ID’ing whatever you post. I know for a fact that I have had difficulty numerous times ID’ing dragonflies and birds.

So off I go with my camera to see what I can find. And no… I did not find anything rare and exotic but I went locally to the wild prairie area on Cook Road by Lake Ray Hubbard to see what I could find as this time last year the wildflowers were in full bloom. Blanket flowers are in bloom now and milkweed was just beginning to flower. There was a lot of pink primrose and then I spotted one lonely pure white primrose. It stood out from everything else and I was determined I wanted to shoot it.

The problem was… the wind was blowing and rarely let up for more than a few seconds. Wind is definitely a problem when shooting wildflowers, especially if you can’t find them in an area protected from the wind, so I increased my ISO to 3200 knowing it would increase the noise in the photo (definitely a negative!) but it would help me achieve a faster shutterspeed in hopes of catching a shot in sharp focus. And of course I was shooting in RAW to have lots of information to work with when editing. The day was cloudy but as always I left my camera in auto white balance mode rather than changing it in camera since I was shooting in RAW and if adjustments needed to be made, it could be done in post-processing.

I could not get as close as I had wanted due to a lot of mud in the area (note to self… buy boots!) so I used my 100-400mm lens for the reach and I was shooting at 400mm on a full frame camera. I was at f/11, 1/800 sec, and minus 2/3 stop exposure due to the white petals against a darker background. This was the original shot. Not exactly what I was looking for but I knew I could work with it in LR.

Primrose (Photo by Lala)

Primrose
(Photo by Lala)

So… here is the photo cropped, and a bit of clarity added, as well as some sharpening and adjustment to diminish the noise in the background, all done in LR. I tried both vertical and horizontal cropping but the vertical worked the best.

Primrose (Photo by Lala)

Primrose
(Photo by Lala)


I knew I wanted to get rid of those fine spider webs but that is difficult to do with the cloning or the healing tool in tight spaces in LR so from there I took it into photoshop Elements and got rid of the webs and also removed the vegetation at the bottom right as it did not add anything to the image.

I thought I was done with the image but on closer inspection, the white petals had a lavender tinge in the shaded areas. This flower was in no way lavender so I once again went into LR and adjusted the white balance with a simple slider to give me the white petals and remove the “off” color.

Primrose After Final Edit (Photo by Lala)

Primrose
After Final Edit
(Photo by Lala)


So what initially appeared to be a throw away image, ended up being a favorite image. Editing of photos is a wonderful thing and as technology changes, our ability to “fix” an image becomes easier. Of course we would all like to get the perfect image in camera but when that does not happen… we have options.

In preparing this presentation, when I right clicked on my original image I discovered that the metadata of camera settings was not there. OOPS! What happened? Well, I must have clicked on something at some time in the past to change my settings in LR but now they are back! Photography is a very steep learning curve! It never ends!

So I did post this to iNaturalist but I posted the one that appeared a bit lavender before I realized that I needed to change the white balance. I posted the corrected image but then could not remove/delete the other image on the site. I am finding iNaturalist to be a not so user-friendly site in many respects. I have e-mailed asking how to delete the other image and not a word from them as yet. Check out the site if you get a chance and I sure hope you have better luck with it than I am having!

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