Eastern Forktail Damselfly – 9 image Focus Stack

I am going through backup Hard Drives clearing out files not needed to clear up some of my storage space. I found this image of an Male Eastern Forktail Damselfly covered with the raindrops after a heavy rain. I thought it looked interesting with the heavy amount of raindrops. I was using a Sigma 150mm macro lens with a 1.4X Teleconverter on a Canon 1D MkIV. To get more in focus but still keep a soft uncluttered background I was shooting with my aperture @ f/4.5. I shot 9 images along the Damselfly and the water drops . Then loaded them into 1 layered Photoshop file to blend into my final image. Luckily the Damselfly did not move as I was photographing it. The 2nd image is a Immature Female Eastern Forktail Damselfly shot at the same session as the Featured Image.

Immature Female Eastern Forktail Damselfly, 8 image Focus Stack, 150mm Sigma Macro @f8

Blue Dasher In Our Garden

I noticed a male Blue Dasher on the top of a Gladiola in our garden as I was looking out the window. So I went out to get some images to post. It has been unusually extra hot here in NJ, so we have not gone to any of the local parks lately. As I was inching closer to the Dasher, it flew off, but quickly returned to the same spot. After doing that multiple times it finally stayed on the tip of the tall plant. I guess it began to tolerate me as I was inching closer. I was hand holding my camera, but I shot a series of focus points along the dragonfly for image stacking. The Blue Dasher was close to the side of my home so I was shooting wide open to have a smoother background. This eliminated the shadows under the rows of siding that would have given confusing rows of darker stripes to the background. I was using a Canon R with a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro and a Sigma 2x teleconverter. So with the 2x teleconverter, my wide open f/stop was f/5.6. I manually focused a series of focus points from wingtip to wingtip plus close ups of the face. I was surprised the Blue Dasher did not fly off and allowed me to get right in it’s face, so to speak. So I tried many different focus stacks to see which might work better. Here are a few images from the series.

Blue Dasher v4

First focus stacked image, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro, with Sigma 2x teleconverter, 5 images, Canon R @ f/5.6.  With focus stacking shooting @ f/5.6, I eliminated the shadows under the rows of siding behind the dragonfly.


Blue_Dasher_v3_portrait vert 300mm f4_2X_Canon R_v2_ v1076A4672

Dasher Image (2 images) concentrating on face, legs, plant tip & front of wings.

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

While we were looking for Dragonflies at Plainsboro Preserve I noticed this Red-Spotted Purple butterfly warming on the ground. I was using a close focusing 300mm f/4 lens with a 2X teleconverter so I could get closer images of distant insect subjects (usually Dragonflies) so I manually focused on 3 different areas to blend them into 1 sharp image in Photoshop. Using f/4 for my f/stop (with a 2X teleconverter it is actually f/8 then with the 2X teleconverter giving a 600mm focal length) and focused on middle body, then antennas and lastly rear wing edge. I used to mainly use a 1.4X teleconverter for this type of shooting but the Canon R files are extremely clean even at much higher ISO’s so the 2X gives me more working distance. Then used Photoshop to blend the sharpest areas automatically into 1 merged image. Photoshop usually does a good job on this, but here in there I might also do some manual editing to what Photoshop does. To bad it is getting late in the season for butterflies & insects. They are beginning to show signs of wear. Especially the Dragonflies!

Red_Spotted Purple_Butterfly v1_PP_76A5316

Another on a leaf still at f/4 (actual f/8 with 2X teleconverter but it flew off before I could do my near & far focus points. That is why I sometimes shoot center, then the near & far points.

Blackwater NWR Thunderhead Cloud Panorama

I am still going over images I shot earlier this year towards the end of Summer. Work seems to have gotten in the way of doing this sooner. This is from the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, one of our favorite places to photograph. Especially for Eagles and landscapes. The clouds were amazing this day which was great for panorama landscapes. I liked the colors and brightness in the center of the Thunderhead cloud and shot the series so there was more darkness below the cloud. I thought it made the cloud stand out more and look more interesting. I was using 4 different cameras this day, depending on what I was photographing with lenses ranging for the Canon Bodies from 12-24mm, 24-105mm, 300mm & 400mm and a few macro lenses. We never know until we get there what we will find interesting to photograph. So we usually bring an assortment of lenses. Birds were scarce, so we concentrated on Dragonflies and landscapes. For this image I was using a m43 Camera with a Panasonic 14-140mm lens, equivalent to 28mm FOV on a Full-Frame Camera. I only used 2 horizontal images stacked because with a third it seemed too square to me and lost some impact. Lately I seem to be doing more panoramas or stacked images mainly for the practice & challenge of them working out. Plus it is fun (when it Works!) Also images tend to work out better when you have tried various techniques and know when to shoot more or less for certain situations. It does seem the wider you go with the lens, the harder it is to blend sometimes. Below are with the 12-24mm on a Canon Body.


Looking out from the middle of the Lookout Platform – @12mm, 3 Vertical images panorama

BWR_Lndscp_MAL5944 v2

Opposite Direction on the Lookout Platform – Early am – 3 img horizontal panorama @ 12mm


4 horizontal images @ 22mm panorama – looking out from behind Information Kiosk


Looking down the Wildlife Drive by the Observation Platform – 2 img vertical panorama to include large main cloud

Gladiolus Image Stack & Panorama @ f/4

Photographing in the garden again with a 300 mm f/4 Canon close focusing Lens @ f/4. At our condo our gardens are only 3 ft deep, so if I stop down for more depth of field, the background building or shrubs are distracting. A 150mm macro at f/ 2.8 is also too distracting for me. So the 300mm f/4 seems to work best for what I like. But a 300mm that close I have to combine image stacking for more depth of field for the areas I want sharper along with a series for a panorama to get the overall area I want to capture. If I back up I get more detail in the background, so I lose some of the softness in the background. Both series handheld and assembled in Photoshop. After you do a few it gets easier to get predictable results. At least most of the time! The featured image is a series of about 12 images. I also included a Balloon Flower & Hardy Lily while I was experimenting.

Gladiolus v2 3img stk

Another image stack and pano series after a rain – 300mm f/4 – 10 images 

Gladiolus v1 2img stk_C

Another 10 image combo of image stacking and pano

2img f4 focus blend v3

Simple 8 Image Stack and pano – horizontal formats – Balloon Flower

7 img stk f4 shrt focus blend v1

Dappled light 8 Image Stack / pano – Hardy Lily


Meeting House At Night 4 Image Blend

My second version of the Meeting House Image. This time a 4 image blend exposed for different sections, then combined in Photoshop. All at 24mm. I also tried 12mm, but the Meeting House looked too small in the frame. First I exposed for the brightly lit building. Then an exposure for the darker trees and foreground lawn. Then 2 exposures for the few stars that were visible at this angle. I used a technique of greatly over exposing the sky on one of these, then using levels in Photoshop to pull out a few more faint stars so they stood out more. Then combining those two layers. I also made a reverse mask of the bright building so I could replace the area around the building steeple with the dark sky with stars and darker trees. Then I manually layered and masked my layers to where I liked all the elements of the image so they looked like it was somewhat balanced.
The exposure for the stars was 30 seconds, the longest time so not to show movement. But being in NJ, I had to try a few times because a jet would fly through and leave a streak of light from the lights on the wings. Which in some ways looked interesting, but not what I was after. But it is New Jersey with constant planes going overhead, so maybe I will add it later.

Raindrops On Bush – 10 Image Focus Stack

While looking for a photo subject in the yard, I saw these tiny raindrops on a evergreen shrub. It looked like an interesting pattern of raindrops going back into the shrub. I liked the circular dark hole in the background as a distant destination point. Almost like a “black hole” in the distance. I shot a series of 10 images at f/8 in different focus points along a range from near to far for the range I wanted to shoot. Then I opened all the images in Layers in one Photoshop file. Selecting all the layers, I used Auto Align to line up all the drops in the layers. After aligning, I used Auto Blend to combine all the “in focus” sections into one flattened image.

Stacked Raindrops start

The First Near Focus Image in the Stack.

Stacked Raindrops end

The Tenth Final Image in the Stack

Rain Drops on Leaves -8 Image Stack

After it rained again, I went out looking for rain drops. This time I used an old manual Canon FD 200mm f/4 macro with a m43 adapter on a Panasonic m43 camera body. The old FD lenses work well on the m43 cameras. Plus I have quite a few left from the film days. Makes it, sort of in easy terms, a 400mm f/4 macro in Full Frame Digital thinking on the m43 format, with the depth of field of a 200mm. There are more exacting ways to figure out the exact focal length, f/stop, and depth of field, but it is easier to just double the focal length and be close. Also unless you know the exact focal length of the lens, not what it is listed as, you are going to be wrong in the first place. Most lenses are not the focal length they are listed at, the true focal length is a little shorter usually from what they describe them as. Especially Telephoto Lenses. Also in the Electronic viewfinder, you see the depth of field you are achieving live. Stopping down the lens, you see your depth of field. There has been a lot of debates on lens conversions on m43 cameras, but it is not worth the effort to me.

RainDrops_3_8img stk v1 lay1

First of the 8 images, showing the distortion Photoshop did to help align all the layers in the stack. When Photoshop is compressing them into 1 blended file, it will automatically fill in blank areas with what it thinks it needs. Sometimes it works Great. Other times it needs a few touchups.

RainDrops_3_8img stk lay8

Last Image (#8) in Series

The above aligned images are showing the manipulation of the areas of the start and last images using Auto-Align. Next when you choose Auto Blend, Photoshop will remove areas from each layer not used, usually the out of focus areas, selecting the areas more in focus and blending all into an image and placing it on the top layer above the other layers.

Sometimes it works very well, sometimes Photoshop just cannot handle it. Or they might need a little touchup here or there. There are other programs that might be better, but I am just doing these for fun and I am used to using PhotoShop.



Rain Drop Image Stacking

Over the Weekend we had multiple series of rain storms, some with heavy rain. It would rain, then the sun would come out, then it would rain again, multiple times over. I went out in the yard during a sunny session in between, to look for rain drops. I was using a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro but did not have a tripod at home. So I tried multiple series of images, for handheld image stacking.  Trying to be as steady as possible, I shot multiple series on a variety of groupings of water drops. These range from 3 image stacks up to 19 image stacks per image. Being hand held, it was hard to focus in a series of focus points without moving the frame somewhat. Actually, some I moved quite a bit. The newer versions of Photoshop CC seem to do a really great job of aligning and assembling images. And then filling some areas with content-aware fill to give a finished image. They would have been better if I used a tripod, but overall I am pleased with what I did get.

The Featured Image is a 10 shot handheld image stack.


Raindrop stk 1

7 image stack

Rain dropstack 3_10img

10 image stack

Raindrops stk_4_10img v2

10 image stack

Raindrops 5 8img_stk8

8 image stack

Raindrops stk 10a 7img

7 image stack

RainDrops stk_12_18img

18 image stack

Raindrops stk 14_3img

3 image stack

Raindrops stk 17 11img

11 image stack

RainDrops 19_img

19 image stack

Raindrops 21 3img

3 image stack

Raindrops_22b 3img

3 image stack

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