Today I want to tell you about an exciting new macro technique I recently learned about – yesterday to be exact. When I say new macro technique, I mean new to me. First, a little background.
Frequent visitors to my blog (http://strandedinkenmare.aminus3.com) may have noticed that lately I’m posting images of flowers entitled FStack “ insert number here”. What I've been experimenting with lately, is focus stacking. There are scads of software packages out there that will automate the stacking of images to essentially increase depth of field. I use Photoshop. I won't go into the details of the technique here. Essentially you take a bunch of shots of something, focusing on a different part of that something for each shot. The magic of Photoshop or some other software package blends those shots together to give you a sharp image throughout – at least that's the theory. if you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of focus stacking, just Google the term.
I've had some issues with focus stacking, probably mostly due to poor field technique. The problem that can come up is that you'll get one little piece of the flower or whatever not in focus in all your stacked images. Well, when Photoshop blends images together that portion of whatever you take a picture of that out of focus in every frame will be our focus in the final image. The result can be a flower that is 90% in focus with a weird line of blurriness through it. This is both disconcerting and not visually pleasing. The other issue is time. It takes time for a software package to process 11 20 MB files or whatever.
This brings me to my new technique that I learned from a very pragmatic pro named Roman Kurywczak (www.roaminwithroman.com) at the latest Nature Photographers of the Pacific Northwest meeting (nppnw.org). Let me preface this by stating to really get the most out of this technique you must have a macro lens & tripod. It's called shoot all your macros at the smallest aperture available. In the case of my 60mm macro that is F40. Using a tripod and mixed light, this allows you to get sharpness throughout a macro in a single shot.
To get the image accompanying this post, I set up a poor man's studio in my kitchen. For light, I used three sources: natural light from a south facing sliding glass door, true color LED light from the kitchen, and my flash attached to the hot shoe of my camera. After some experimentation, I found that setting my flash to slow sync and powered down by three stops, I could get quite nice exposures. I left my aperture at f40 and played around with the shutter speed until I found a speed that gave me good results. The other variable I played with was bouncing the flash off diffusers, in my case to white standard size envelopes. This really helped soften the light from the flash and minimize harsh shadows.
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