Tag Archives: macro photography

Why Focus Stack

focus stack of fordite

Cropped version of final Focus Stack. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm + 26mm extension tubes, ISO 400, f/4, 1/50 sec.

Not all macro subjects are captured sharp in a single image, that makes a great reason to focus stack. In preparing for a camera club presentation, I decided to focus stack a new object. I chose a piece of fordite from Cadillac Ranch. If you aren’t familiar with fordite, just think – layers of paint. The first image (image A) is a close-up image of the piece of fordite that measures 2” x 1”. I used my 12-100mm lens and got as close as I could to capture the image. Then, with my macro lens and extension tubes, I captured image B. A small sliver of the subject is sharp, but not the whole piece of fordite. In order to have sharpness throughout the entire frame, I would need to focus stack.

 

At first, I tried a stack of 50 images. My Olympus camera has a focus bracketing mode so all I do is focus on the closest part of the fordite and program the camera for 50 images at a small increment of focus bracketing. The camera then captures 50 raw images changing the focus with small increments from front to back. After looking at image 50, the farthest part of the fordite was still blurry, so I needed more photos in my stack. I tried again, this time with 125 focus bracketing images. When I reviewed the photos, at image 118, I had the sharpness I needed. Next step was to focus stack the 118 images in Helicon Focus. Helicon is amazingly easy to use. After selecting the images in Lightroom, I export to Helicon and press the render button. Helicon does the rest. The last image is the final image of 118 focus stacked images.

A few tips on focus stacking:

  • Mark the start of a focus stack by capturing a single image of your hand, or other random subject otherwise if you capture several stacks, it will be hard to identify the start and stop of the stack otherwise.
  • Use a tripod and shutter release to minimize camera shake. Photoshop CC offers focus stacking but it is more complicated than Helicon Focus.

Water Drop Collisions

Creating water drop collisions keeps me entertained for hours. For the last year, I have been very busy completing and publishing the book, The Art of Macro Photography and my drip kit was neglected. So, I blocked a few hours and went to work in my make shift studio (spare bedroom). I kept the setup simple and started with single drops of water. I didn’t use any additives, just wanted to practice making drops and fine tune the timing of the flashes. After a successful single drop, I added the second drop.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 400, f/16, .5 sec.

In all the time I have been shooting water drop collisions, I’ve never seen the second drop hit next to the original drop as you can see in the image to the right. After several minutes problem solving, I tapped the valve and all subsequent drops collided. Why does this entertain me for hours? I love the challenge of focusing sharp and the varied final images. With a small change on timing of the flashes, I can achieve several different looks. The last image is of my setup for this series.

Stay tuned for more images next week!

 

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 6 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 5 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

Three days into my Michigan trip, I received a FedEx package from a good friend with a Waterfalls of Michigan book. A guide to more than 130 waterfalls in the Great Lake State. Of these 130 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there is only one in the lower peninsula, how will I photograph them all? Well, I am sure I won’t, but I will enjoy the ones I get to. For my two weeks in Michigan, I am spending a week in the Upper Peninsula, this is new territory for me and I love it. I rented a small AirBnB apartment in Munising and have six waterfalls within five miles! Originally, this trip was designed to be with my husband but last-minute changes didn’t allow it. So, I am off solo again travelling through the state where I was born in search of water images. I selected two waterfalls a day to

Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/11, .8 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter

photograph.

At Munising Falls yesterday, a sweet retired man said, “You look like a professional, can you help me? When I view my photos, how do I delete one?” Not that he really needs a professional photographer to answer that question, but I helped him with that and a few more questions on his digital camera. Then, I hiked 2.5 miles round trip to Chapel Falls. I think I stopped every 50 yards to photograph all forms of fungi. My macro lens got a great workout. Even other hikers stopped me and said, “I saw you photographing fungi on the way to the falls. Did you see these yellow mushrooms?” Michiganders are such nice people! He directed me to the yellow mushrooms and I spent 30-minutes capturing images with my tripod up as low to the ground as possible.

Yellow Mushroom. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/3 sec.

Today I drove to Wagner Falls, two miles from my apartment. There was one car when I arrived and they left soon thereafter. I scooted under the deck to get a few images from the rivers edge as well. Although it was raining, it is more on the misty spectrum than pouring; much preferred for photography. Tomorrow, I start a meetup through Olympus Mirrorless Adventures and we will photograph six more waterfalls in the area. I can’t wait!

iPhone capture of my setup.

For the Photogs:

So, what does it take to capture a “milky water” waterfall photo? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Do your research. Find out the direction the waterfall faces. If it is in direct sunlight, go early or late in the day so the sun won’t be on the waterfall. In Northern Michigan, the sky is graced with clouds frequently, so sun is not an issue.

    Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

  2. Gear. In addition to your camera and len(s), don’t forget a tripod. The milky water is captured by using slow shutter speeds and a sturdy tripod is a must. Last, bring a circular polarizing filter and neutral density filter or get a Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer (combines polarization with neutral density in one filter).
  3. Try all angles. Some waterfalls have viewing decks, others are best viewed at the river’s edge. Regardless, look at all the angles. When I went to Munising Falls, there was the main accessible path then two paths that branched off. The path to the left stepped up 30 stairs and only 1/3 of the viewers when up to see that angle. The path to the right stepped up 100 stairs and had the best view of all! I had this view to myself for a long time, most visitors did not climb these stairs. Be careful if you are on a viewing deck any foot traffic on the deck will result in vibrations that move your camera.
  4. Take your time. When other visitors are at waterfalls also, I make a point of setting up my camera, tripod and filters in the background. When the crowd thins down, I step forward, reframe my shot and capture several images at different focal lengths and different orientations (horizontal & vertical). Then I step back again and review. I make sure all the other visitors have a chance at a good image too. I often take a moment and think to myself on what else I can do to make a better image. Then do that something different. I just keep shooting. That is the advantage of travelling alone.

Cape Lookout

man in fog

Cape Lookout. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 12-100 mm, ISO 250, f/16 @ 1/250 sec.

Lookout

Teardrop with tarp

Three very peaceful days at Cape Lookout State Park. Weather was varied and still no rain. The first night the sea spray was so heavy I put up my rain cover tarp off the back of the teardrop. As you would guess, the spray still found its way to me. The next morning was foggy and windless so I immediately went to the Cape hiking trail for beach and foggy tree shots. Only one other person was walking the beach and I was able to add him to my photo. While I hiked the trail, I found dew covered thistle stalk with a small spider web and spent an hour or more capturing this image.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 60 mm macro, ISO 250, f/3.2 @ 1/160 sec., in-camera focus stack of 8 images.

After I returned to camp, the sun came out and without the wind this was the best beach yet! I put down the camera and sat on the beach for part of the afternoon. Although soaking in the sun was great, it was too mellow for me and I took off for a walk down the beach. There were many washed up jelly fish on the shore and I think they are moon jellies. Austin asked me if I tried throwing them back in… I did not. After texting one photo to Rod, he pointed out that I was not looking at a jelly but a plastic lid. I hated admitting it, but he was right. All the others were jelly fish though! Here are two photos, one of a jelly and one of the jelly like lid. Hopefully you can see why I was fooled by the lid.

Moon Jelly. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 200, f/3.5 @ 1/1250 sec.

Burn Ban

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 200, f/6.3 @ 1/8000 sec.

Little did I know this might be my last campfire. The dry summer has hit Oregon and Oregon State Parks started a burn ban. At least I won’t smell like a campfire anymore! My second day was full of touristy locations Munson Falls, Tillamook and Cape Meares Lighthouse. While in Tillamook, I drove by the creamery intending to stop but the crowds were thick and I decided to bypass the bustle. Instead, I bought Tillamook cheese at Safeway. Wasn’t that a cheesy excuse? The afternoon was again sunny and I walked the beach with camera in hand. This adorable little girl jumping the waves drew my eye. My only regret is that I was too relaxed (lazy) to talk to the parents and offer the photos.

It’s interesting how different the waves look at low tide vs high tide and from one beach to another with comparable tides. Here are two of my favorites.

Low Tide. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm macro, ISO 64, f/16 @ 1.3 sec., 8 stop ND filter.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 200, f/22 @ 1/5 sec., ND filter.

For the Photogs!

Sand Dollar Shell. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 60 mm, ISO 200, f/9 @ 1/60 sec.

With the calm winds at Cape Lookout, I used my macro lens more. The first night, I brought shells and a broken sand dollar to my camp. The cloud cover provided a perfect softbox and I setup my table top tripod to capture the images.

Here’s a tip when photographing around salt water. Don’t forget to rinse off your tripod. When I capture the wave images, I often step into the area were larger waves flow up the beach. I watch to avoid splashes, and make sure I rinse the sand and salt off my tripod each night.

Bodega Bay

Edith-E boat

Edith-E. OMDIMII, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250

After leaving the San Jose area and visiting with family, I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Bodega Bay. Outside Petaluma, there is a boat on dry land that has seen better days. We stopped by it last year, so I made this my lunch spot. The Edith-E is not any more seaworthy.

When I was young, my parents drove up Highway 1 and I remembered them talking about Bodega Bay. Those memories placed Bodega Bay on my map. Although we have traveled up to the Redwoods several times in my 26 married years, we haven’t driven this stretch of Highway 1. My campground was in Sonoma Coast State Park – Bodega Dunes. Most of the camp spots were individual alcoves. Very cozy. Except for what I am confident are ticks. I found one walking on my arm and it didn’t live another day. Backing in at this campground was successful. I think the practice with my Uncle Ron in the San Jose area did the trick, I’m ready to do it again – tomorrow.

View from Kortum Trail. OMDIMII, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/16, 1/60

I arrived early afternoon, so as I often do in new towns, I went to the tourist center. This lovely woman has lived here most of her life and was more than willing to highlight “must see” areas on a map for me. The Sonoma Coast State Park includes 16 beaches, some which are only accessible at low tide plus many hiking trails and vistas. I headed out quickly, hiking a few miles along the Kortum trail scouting for a good sunset location. This time of year, it is common for fog/marine layer to settle in morning and night, so I tend to look at shooting early

photo of sunset

Sunset captured with iPhone

evening light as much as sunset. With the sun setting at 8:30pm, I found my spot at 7pm. When the sun finally set, I went to a different pullout to watch. Of course, when the light was spectacular, I pulled out my iPhone for a quick snap. Sometimes, I get so engrossed in capturing the image I forget to enjoy the moment. So, I enjoyed. When I got back to camp, I made a campfire and relaxed.

Shell Beach

Starfish worth falling for! OMDIMII, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125, 12-100mm

Low tide was at 7:30am at Shell Beach, a wonderful location with a short steep hike to the shoreline. My camera gear included two camera bodies (Olympus OMD1MII and OMD5MII) with my 12-100mm and 60mm macro lenses. I did have more lenses in my pack, but these are my “heavy lifters.” This time, I even took a black matboard with me in case the tide pools were too reflective. The board would be used to shade the pool. As soon as I stepped on the beach I saw a handful of people searching tidepools and heard one say, “There’s a starfish.” I got so excited, I almost ran over there. This was a negative low tide, so more slimy rocks were exposed than normal, so I am sure you are not surprised when I slipped and fell on my back like an upside down turtle. The only damage was to my pride. For the next 2 hours, I photographed starfish. At one point, I saw movement in the rocks, furry movement. It was a momma sea otter and 3 of her young. They were avoiding me, but I got one shot off without moving closer to worry them.

photo of otter

Sea Otter. OMD5MII, 60mm macro, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/80 sec

After Shell Beach, I took a short drive to Bodega Head. Again, many great trails to hike with stunning views and grabbed fresh halibut tacos from a local restaurant. They were good. The highlight of my day was walking to the beach from my campground. I saw on the map there were several beach access spots, so I went for a look. After hiking .3 miles on a deep sandy trail, seeing a road surprised me. I thought the trail would lead me to the beach. So, I walked the road. There were very few cars and only one other pedestrian on this road. I did confirm that I was heading in the right way to the beach though. Little did I know it would be another .7 miles walking the road before I would arrive at the beach! If I had known that, I might have driven. The beach was worth it and I walked awhile and got my feet wet. All in all, a great day with many hikes and a little down time too. Next blog will be from Oregon.

 

Art of Macro Photography

The Wait is Over!

Art of Macro Photography

The Art of Macro Photography Cover, designed by Rod Horn

The Art of Macro Photography by Bruce D. Taubert and Amy Brooks Horn is available for download!
If you enjoy viewing a bug’s eyes, flower pistils and stamens, lacy details of frost, or any of the millions of “small landscapes” that surround us, then this descriptive book about macro photography is for you! With 200 color photographs and 12 sections about macro photography gear, Bruce and Amy share their passion of macro photography while demonstrating how to capture these images.

Purchase your downloadable copy now – http://www.horndesigns.com/Books