Focus Stacking For Extreme Depth Of Field

It is getting much colder outside lately and not too many interesting subjects to photograph and post. But during some of our walks I collected a few leaves to photograph in my home studio for showing Focus Stacking for sharp detail (sharp focus) across the whole subject from front to back. There are specialized programs for this but I rely on Photoshop & Bridge for most of my workflow. The newest Bridge version (2019) seems to have some problems with Focus Stacking, so I used the 2018 version of Bridge for these. I had done a Macro Workshop at my local Camera Group, so I had a few printed backgrounds to use for backgrounds for my test images here. Even at f/32 with a 100mm macro lens, I could not get my subject Oak Leaf all in focus in one shot. I also did not want to use a 50mm macro because it would distort the shape of the leaf because of the shorter focal length. I purposely chose a large long 11 inch leaf for this to demonstrate the technique. Using Studio Flash for my tests allowed me to select f/stops that I wanted to use for my test images. The featured image I started with is 15 images @ f/8.  Shooting a series of focused areas from the tip of the stem to the top tip. Even at f/8, 15 images was more than I needed.

Oak Leaf_f32_test_76A1118

Single Shot Image @ f/32 – Stem is soft

FS_f8_8img Prestack

Start of a Series of 8 images @ f/8

The above is the start of an 8 image series shot @ f/8.  Turned down power on the studio flash for shooting @ f/8

8img stk bridge

Here is a series of 15 images shot, but only selected every other one for a 8 shot series (shot f/8) for this grouping.

FS_f8_8img Prestack

The 8 selected images from above series, showing image alignment in a layered Photoshop file before blending. You can see “edge” banding on the edges from the alignment process of image shift from different focus spots on each of the different images. (In Photoshop – Edit -Auto Align). Then once the “layers” are aligned, Go to Edit, Blend to merge the images into a final image. Once Blended the gradation banding Disappears and for the final image you can “Flatten” all the layers into 1 layer.

Final 8img stack

Final 8 Image Blend – leaf sharp from top to stem.   Leaf Images shot @ f/8

Oak_Leaf_8img stk_f8

Oak Leaf 8 Image Stack @ f8

Oak_Leaf_10ing stk f8 v3

Oak Leaf 10 img Stack @ f8 – On Green Background

Oak_Leaf_3img stk_f32_v1

Oak Leaf 3 Image Stack @ f/32 – the smaller the f/stop you use the fewer focus points you need.

It takes some practice to get used to what f/stop to use and how many focus points to have along your stack. The f/stop also varies on how much light you have. Using studio flash you have more control of your power settings to make choices, but out in the field you have to work with the light you have and your chosen ISO. Once you get used to doing them you are more confident in the final image. With practice you can also get good results when just hand holding the camera for image stacking, not requiring a tripod. In future posts I will work on showing making Panoramas in Photoshop. Panoramas are more forgiving than Stacking when when shooting handheld.


Christmas Lights At Longwood Gardens

We went to Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA, for their annual Christmas light displays. These are just a few of the outdoor displays at night. There are also many other displays throughout the Conservatory and other buildings. One of the other very interesting displays was a room full of decorations with amazing ornaments made from books and other paper pages. They must have been cut/fabricated maybe by laser cutting. But it was amazing to see the intricate cutting & fabrication. I will post some of them next. Most of the images I shot with an Olympus OMD-1 mk I with a 14-140mm Panasonic lens (with the lens stabilization turned off). I was also using a Canon body with a 12-24mm lens,  but was relying more on the OMD for in-body stabilization. Much lighter to carry and with the stabilized body worked well for the images in early evening. I found the Olympus in-body stabilization worked better than the Panasonic lens stabilization. Plus if you stop down to f/22 you can get some really cool motion blurs or spins with the Olympus OM-D. I saw a few tripods being used, but you usually have to get a free permit for them and cannot use tripods after 2:00. Plus it was so crowded it would have been in the way, so they probably would not allow it for this time.

The featured image above was at 22mm with the 4/3 Olympus OM-D mkI.

We had to get there early, before 2:00 in the afternoon, otherwise, even being members, you had to have a timed entrance because of the huge crowds that come to see the night displays. Also getting there later you have to park off site and take shuttles to the facility. But there is plenty to see before the evening lights up! It takes hours to go through the Conservatory, which is all decorated for Christmas, and you still probably will not see everything.



Late afternoon along the walkways, getting ready for the full impact of the lights at night.


Fountains set to music – when darker they would have colorful lights


Along the path to other fountains & displays starting to get dark.


3 image panorama @14mm- assembled in Photoshop


Birdhouse Display early evening before dark, 18mm, f/10 @ 1/5 sec


Bird house display in the dark, f/ 5.6 @ 0.3 sec


3 image panorama – 14mm. Also these were cascading lights, so in a way it is also an Image Stack that included the cascading lights as they “fell”.  14mm, 1/3rd of a second each exposure, handheld. Pano & stacked in Photoshop. f/8 @ 1/8 sec, handheld


2 image vertical panorama & stack. Panorama to show reflections in water and stack to include more of the cascading lights.


Single image, m43 15mm, 1/8 Sec to show green lights before changing to another color, handheld.


Christmas Tree Changing Color of Lights, 1/13th sec, handheld, m43 @ 32mm

Night Lights_v1_43G0831

Tree with Lights and Color Spotlights on Tree Trunk. f/ 4.5 @ 12mm Canon, 1/30th sec

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Another Tree with Lights, 12mm Canon, f/ 4.5 @ 1/13 sec. handheld

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3 image Panorama, 24mm Canon, f/ 5.6 @ 1/8 sec. handheld

Walk In The Woods #4 & 5

Some more from my Walk In The Woods multi-image detail stacked photos. The featured image is 3 images shot with a 300mm f/4 lens. Again because of how dark it was in the Woods I had to raise my ISO for these to 3200 for #4 & 6400 for #5 to get a fast enough shutter speed for handholding the camera with that focal length. Images aligned and blended in Photoshop, then cropped to where I liked it. Even opening the Canon Raw files in Photoshop’s Camera Raw software and reducing the noise from the high ISO, I still had more noise in my images than I wanted, so I then used NIK Define to reduce the noise even more. #5 is also 3 images shot with 300mm @ f/4 but more of a horizontal focus stack. I guess it is more of a challenge to get what I want this way, but it is fun to try.


Dried Weathered Leaf  –  #5


Water Drops on Leaf

I was looking for water drops after a heavy rain in the yard last year. I saw this leaf with lots of different size droplets and photographed the leaf with a close focusing 300mm f/4 in 2 horizontal images stacked. I used Photoshop to combine the images and then brought out more detail in the Drops. Then went on to photograph the water drops on leaves. I also used a High Pass sharpening technique on a separate layer in Photoshop.


Day Lily leaves with water drops

water drops leaf_MG_7897


Gull Pond Panoramas

While at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I shot a few panoramas along the Wildlife Drive at Gull Pond. The featured image was a 2 shot panorama. Shot at 24mm, with 2 horizontal images, combined in Photoshop. With the featured image I purposely included the empty tree branches on the right to add some interest and some depth. I tried to position the larger branches where there was an open sky with few clouds.


3 horizontal stacked images, vertical panorama, @ 24mm 


4 horizontal images, stacked horizontally, @ 24mm

Small Pond HDR

During our walk at the Davidsons Mill Pond Park, I liked this different view of this small pond. This is from the other side of the pond shown in a previous post, about an hour later than the first post image. I usually do not like HDR images, but the melting ice on the pond was so bright, I had to expose for the bright ice. Then a series of separate exposures for the mid-tones and the the dark trees and ice on the side. Images shot @ 24mm, series handheld and aligned & blended in Photoshop. I enjoy trying images like this more for getting use to doing these for when I come across a really interesting view I really like and want to use these techniques with a degree of confidence it would turn out the way I want it. Practicing these helps for future attempts because you can foresee some problems you can overcome with confidence it should all come together.

Sunrise At Blackwater NWR

A few images of the sunrise from an earlier trip to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge Maryland. From 24mm to 105mm including stacked images and multi-image panorama.


Two image blended panaorama @105mm


Sunrise @ 105mm


Sunrise @ 45mm


Sunrise @ 24mm -2 image blend for sky and slightly lightening foreground



Sunrise @24mm -single image

Early Morning Leaves & Roots Panorama

I went to a local nature area early in the morning to see what I could find. Just a few ducks and Canada Geese. But I liked the early morning light on the trails and leaves. The featured image was a 2 image shot that I took on the way in on the path. I had my 400mm expecting to photograph ducks and maybe an Egret or a Great Blue Heron. So I used my iPhone with the ProCamera app,  In the HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode. It shoots 2 images and blends them together. You can do further editing in the app or I fine tune in Photoshop. The 2 images were then combined and stacked in Photoshop.

IPhone leaf (2 image) HDR image below.





Blackwater NWR Landscape

While at Blackwater NWR, I wanted to try a few 12mm landscapes along the wooded area on the Wildlife Drive. I thought I would have more luck with the landscapes since it is in  November and some of the leaves would have fallen to let more sunlight in between the trees. In the summer or spring the leaves block so much light it is hard to get interesting images like this. Also the leaves on the ground, I think add an interesting texture to the foreground. This one is also 2 images stacked in Photoshop.

bwr-lndscp-v2-2916_mal9248Single 12mm image taken a little further down the Wildlife Drive.

landcspe-v3-bwr-drive_mal9309Two image stacked image taken around the bend from the previous stacked image. This is when you get more in the open along the Wildlife Drive. Also 12mm view stacked image.

Floating Feathers

I went to one of the local spots to see what I could find to photograph. A lot of Canada Geese off in the distance and a few ducks. So I concentrated on Feathers that were floating in the water nearby. Some had water drops that added some more interest and dimension. One Feather, at the right angle, was shaped like a fish. All are stacked images, from four to 10 images, stacked in photoshop. All shot with a m43 camera, lens 600mm equivalent.

feather cf v4

Feather cf v8

feather stack cf v5a

feather v2


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