My First Attempt at Focus Stacking

my first attempt at focus stacking

Tiny ThingsI wanted to try my hand at photo stacking and this millipede provided a great opportunity to give it a try. The photograph was taken on Roan Mountain, at the North Carolina – Tennessee border. I was photographing a mountain landscape when my wife, Mary, approached me and said “I have a great subject for you to photograph”.  As a microbiologist, she has a trained eye for finding the tiny stuff! So I abandoned my landscape shot, attached my macro lens to my camera and set out to photograph this millipede.

My first thought was to just take a couple of photos and then I would go back to taking landscape photos. But the more I thought about the subject, the more I thought this would be a great place to do a focus stacked image. Focus stacking was something I had never done before, but I always wanted to try. So, I attached my camera to a tripod, composed the shot, switched my 90mm macro lens from auto to manual mode and preceded to focus stack. My camera settings were set to ISO 100, f/2.8, manual mode, spot metering with a two second delay to minimize any camera shake. Having never done this before, I was unsure of how many photos I would need to complete the stack. As I started, I noticed that only a very slight change in focus was needed. As a result, I’m guessing I moved the lens less than a tenth of a millimeter for each shot. An hour and 72 images later I had photos at different focal lengths to be used in post processing.

Post processing was completed in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. I did the basic adjustments in Lightroom and once I was satisfied with the look I opened all 72 photos in Photoshop as layers. Once in photoshop, I auto-aligned the photos and then auto blended the images. The final blend of the stacked images produced a final image of high sharpness from top to bottom. The image was then transferred back into Lightroom, where it was cropped. No additional image post processing enhancements were required.

With the today’s mirrorless cameras we can use in-camera focus stacking by selecting the starting and ending points and the camera will select the number of photos. As a DSLR user, I guess it might be time for me to switch to mirrorless!

This photograph was selected by PDN Magazine as the 1st Place Winner in the 2018 World in Focus Travel Photography Competition, Wildlife & Insects. In addition it has been selected as a finalist for the People’s Choice Award in the 16th Annual Applachian Mountain Photography Contest.

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