TableTop Photography With Focus Stacking For Detail & Depth of Field

It is getting colder outside and not a lot of interesting subjects to photograph. When I was out photographing during the year, I look for interesting objects & props for subjects in my little indoor studio for the colder & snowy months. I also have a series of prepared 13 x 19 or larger backgrounds I have designed in Photoshop and printed on a heavyweight Luster Photo media. This gives me stock backgrounds ready to use for my “still life” shots. I print at the highest print setting to minimize the inkjet dot pattern in the prints, which only really might show up in very close macro shots. For this series, I used a set of 400 watt second monolights with softboxes for overall lighting. The images here are shot with a 100mm macro lens with 3 to 8 different focused area shots for each main image. Then put those shots into 1 layered Photoshop file for each of the different still life layered setups. Next I used Photoshop to “Focus Stack” and align those layers. I then used Photoshop to blend the sharpest sections of each of the layers below into one final top layer with the sharpest areas from those below. By shooting a variety of sharp focus points across your image, you “pick and choose” your areas you want sharp, or areas you want to de-emphasize by softening that area. In the “Old Days” I would have used view cameras with swings & tilts to maximize sharpness across the image. Or purposely throw off sharpness for soft out of focus areas that your eye then goes to the sharp in focus area that draws your attention to a certain spot in the image. All images in this series were photographed with a Canon 100mm f/ 2.8 macro lens.

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Sometimes you try a few layouts then choose the one you like best when they are all assembled. The image above this one was the image I liked best from these 2 layouts, Probably because they were pointing upwards instead of downward.

Great Egret Catches Lunch

Outside our complex is a small pond along an access road. There usually are a lot of Canada Geese here, but scattered along the far shoreline in the pond are Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Cormorants. Also a few shore birds are working along the edge. It is down a slope from the road, so you are sort of shooting down at them from quite a distance so you need a long lens to photograph them. Because of the distance I was using a Tamron 150-600mm lens with a Sigma 2X teleconverter for a 1200mm field of view to fill the frame more with the birds. I am surprised the Canon R autofocuses quickly with the combination of a 2X Teleconverter on a f/6.3 zoom lens. With the 2X teleconverter on the Tamron 150-600mm f/6.3 lens, my wide open f/stop was f/13. So I stoped down to f/16 to help with shrapness.  My Canon 1D Series bodies would not autofocus past f/11 if you stacked teleconverters.

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Great Egret finally catches a fish for lunch – Canon R @ 1200mm

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Great Egret Working Shoreline – Canon R @ 1200mm

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Great Egret Working It’s way down the far Shoreline – Canon R @ 1200mm

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Cormorants Swimming By – Canon R 1200mm

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Cormorants Swimming By – Canon R – 1200mm

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Great Egret working the Far Shoreline – Canon R – 1200mm

Great Blue Heron In Finis Pool @ Bombay Hook NWR

Towards the end of the Wildlife Drive at Bombay Hook is Finis Pool. Quite often you can get photos of turtles here along with ducks. On this day we found a cooperative Great Blue Heron that posed for us. We took a few images and then moved on to not disturb the Heron. Plus a couple of turtle images, since we were there. Here I was using a Canon R with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom.

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Great Blue Heron @ 600mm

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Great Blue Heron @ 428mm

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Great Blue Heron @ 600mm

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Great Blue Heron @ 600mm

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Turtle on Stump – Finis Pool – 600mm

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Turtles Warming In Sun – Finis Pool, 600mm

 

American Avocets At Bombay Hook NWR

On our visit to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge we saw large flocks of American Avocets. The only problem was they were so far out in the Shearness Pool. Photographing large flocks was acceptable at 600mm, but I added a 2x teleconverter to get to 1200mm for individual Avocets. Even then I had to crop quite tightly for the individual Avocets. These are also handheld, so I upped my ISO to 1200 ISO and f/16 hoping for more sharpness with the 2X Teleconverter.

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Avocets @ 600mm

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Avocets @ 1200mm

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Avocets @ 1200mm

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Avocets @ 1200mm

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Avocets @ 1200mm

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Avocets @ 1200mm

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Avocets @ 600mm

Semipalmated Sandpipers In Flight

We went to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to see what we could find for photo subjects. Usually you can find some close birds, but most of the pools were dried up so that limited quite a few spots to photograph.  Also landscapes are nice here, with nice cloud formations to add interest. It is a large NWR and usually most photo subjects there are quite far in the distance, so you need long lenses. But sometimes they cooperate and you find some closeup subjects. Especially when the pools have water. It is fun to see what you can find. This post features flying Semipalmated Sandpipers

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Semipalmated Sandpipers In Flight at Shearness Pool @ 600mm

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Semipalmated Sandpipers In Flight at Shearness Pool @ 600mm

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Semipalmated Sandpipers In Flight at Shearness Pool @ 600mm

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Semipalmated Sandpipers Foraging

 

Beaver Lodges At Davidsons Mill Pond Park

A few weeks ago we were at Davidson’s Mill Pond Park and we saw a lot of Beaver activity by the water areas along the trail through the woods. We were there for a walk so I only had a m43 camera with a 14-140mm zoom, which with it’s small sensor has a field of view sort of equivalent to 28-280mm on a full frame camera. There are a lot of fallen trees so we could see they have been very busy. But as were were looking at what we thought was a Beaver Lodge, a beaver actually ran along a fallen tree and submerged to go inside the Lodge. It was fun to watch, but Beavers are mostly busy at night. It was a distant shot so it was not great, but I still documented it. We went back, but during the day they are usually not active, so I was shooting a series of the 2 Lodges we could see and the surrounding landscape. Around the bend we thought we spotted a few more Lodges but could not get clear shots of them. Another Park we enjoy walking in, Plainsboro Preserve & Audobon Facility, has even more Beaver Activity / Damage. But it is hard to get close to the water, and along the trails you see more trees chewed down. So there is even more Beaver activity there.

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3 image Panorama of the 2 Lodges

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CloseUp Beaver Lodge #1

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Beaver Lodge #1 & 2- 7 image Panorama – Tamron 150-600mm @ 150mm – showing surrounding landscape

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Beaver Lodges 1 & 2 – 5 img Panorama, Tamron 150-600mm

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Closer View Beaver Lodge #1

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Turtles on felled tree by Lodge #1

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CloseUp Beaver Lodge #2

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Beaver Felled Tree – Amazing how they can take down Large Trees

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Beaver “Lodge #1” with Otter in forground – 140mm m43, X-Large crop

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Camera setup to photograph Lodges in the distance, iPhone 6

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Tree Felled by Beavers – Amazing how many there are and how long it must take. but I guess they do not have anything else to do.

Praying Mantis Garden Close-ups

We seem to have had a lot of Praying Mantises in our Gardens this year. We also saw quite a few in local parks. This series shows some closeups shot with a 150mm Macro. Some I concentrated more on the head, others just overall shots. When you get really close it is interesting to see their eyes and you feel they are really looking at you as you photograph them. To keep softer non-distracting backgrounds I shot @ f/8 or f/11 and smoothed backgrounds as I was working on the files. I liked the Featured image best because it seemed to say “Who you looking at!”

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Same location, Different Angle for lighter background

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