No mantel in Texas is complete without a bluebonnet photograph. But as any amateur roadside shutterbug will tell you, it’s notoriously difficult to capture the stately flower on film. The bloom’s vibrant colors look washed-out; the petal’s delicate details are lost in a blur. “The flowers are small,” says Kenny Braun, a contributing photographer for Texas Monthly. “If the wind is blowing or it’s the wrong time of day, you won’t get a flattering photo.” So before you drive to the country in search of a prime patch of wildflowers, learn the proper technique to ensure that you return home with something picture-perfect.
Wildflowers bloom in April, a month with unpredictable weather. Check the forecast and avoid windy or cloudy days. When the elements align, bluebonnet meccas like Burnet and Ennis explode with color (and crowds), so explore roads less traveled to find pristine fields. When you discover a picturesque spot, check for No Trespassing signs before plopping down.
Morning—between eight and ten—is best, but late bloomers can snap some good shots after four as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your light source: Stand with the sun behind you, at a 45-degree angle, or allow it to backlight your subject for an ethereal look. “Use the camera’s flash to help fill in shadows,”Braun advises.
Charge your digicam and pack an extra memory card. If you use an old-fashioned 35mm, stock up on low-speed film. For both types of cameras, try lower ISO settings, or film speeds, for higher-quality photos, but bring a tripod mount; it steadies the equipment to capture a crisp image. Extreme photogs may want to invest in a polarizing lens filter. “It accentuates the blue in the flowers and sky,” Braun says.
For portraiture, compose a natural frame for your sweethearts and kiddos by incorporating trees, hay bales, or fences. Also try alternative perspectives, from wide angles—including the surroundings and the sky—to close-ups. Practiced photographers might vary the depth of field by changing f-stops. “Small numbers, like f/2.8, produce a shallow depth of field for a selective focus, and large numbers produce lots of focus depth,” Braun says. “And when all else fails, shoot the heck out of everything to give you more images to choose from.”