Friday, June 19, 2015

PhotoProject :: Focus Stacking

This month theme for the 12 Months with Matt Kloskowski group on flickr (its a private group for those that have upgraded or purchased OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 9) is photo stacking, something I have never tried. I was have lunch at a favorite stopping point and could see a perfect place to try out the technique. I opened up the aperture as far as it would go (just f 5.6 on this kit zoom lens, my good lens has a broken mount), in the mistaken thinking I could challenge myself. (opening up the aperture reduces the depth of field)

The first spot I picked to try out the focus stacking series had some good point of interest from the bluff in the background the beach and waves an the foreshore vegetation and then the fence. Trouble was the stiff breeze (aka gale) was straight from Antarctica. So the reeds in the foreground here dancing around and the waves are pounding in. Not to mention my fingers where freezing. (the google photo auto-gif doesn’t record how cold it was). The other important issue I realised as I took these photos was I realised I was taking the series hand held in the wind, which was likely to make merging the photos a challenge. I walked along a bit further and found another overgrown fence post with a view down to the beach. Having warmed my hand in my pockets and braced myself against the wind I took another three set. Firstly focussed on the distance, then focused on the near beach and finally the vegetation on the post.

_IGP9463 _IGP9462 _IGP9461
Distance Focus Near Beach Focus Vegetation on Fence Focus
These are not the only photos I took but they appealed to me most to bring together a number of points of interest at different distance and still have an interesting composition. The photo still bounce around a bit (compare the horizon and exposure of the sky) and I did have to be patience adjusting the images to fit (this is because I hand held the camera) using the Transform Tool in Perfect Layers. Would have been a lot easy if I’d used a Tripod. The actual blending of the layers was easy, even though the images have noticeably different exposure. I use 50-75% feathering between the distant and near beach layers but only 25% feather and a smaller brush to lift out the fence and vegetation. While I was at it I used the magic eraser to remove the fencing wire. None of the photo really has the top of the fence post in crisp focus so I had the feather between the close up and near beach focus to fudge the weathered post end. I probably should have taken a fourth exposure (or more sensibly used a smaller aperture (like f8 or f11). All that remained to do was use Perfect effect to finish the photo using the Dynamic Contrast Natural filter, but moving the medium detail slide a fair way to the right and the Big softy vignette.First Attempt at focus Stacking>

So what did I learn?
  1. Use a solid tripod! (especially in the wind)
  2. Don’t go crazy with a trying to use a low F-stop (ie don’t try and show off)
  3. Take extra intermediate focus points, when in doubt.
  4. Its a fun way to maximize your depth of field.
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