‘Two Tiny Purple Phalaenopsis Orchids’ – fifteen image focus-stack

15 image focus-stack of tiny Phalaenopsis Orchids

Go on over to the homepage and click on the  picture to see a larger version of this beautiful photograph of 2 small Phalaenopsis Orchids. Neither of them is even 1” tall!

How I produced the photograph: What follows is fairly lengthy and contains a lot of detail, but those of you interested in photography might enjoy it. As with most photography, the quality of light is of great importance. In this case I lit the flowers from high and behind to bring out their color and provide detail and glow in their heart – otherwise that area would have been in deep shadow or simply flat and without depth. This is a technique I often use with flowers. I feel it brings out the best in them. I used fluorescent lights so that I could see the effect the light was having on the picture, but this meant long exposures, 1 sec or so, and any movement near the tiny flowers would cause them to wave in the wind caused by the movement. I had to be careful of this, and it was particularly difficult because I was holding a card between the light and the camera, above the flowers, so that the light would not shine directly into the lens and cause flare. Any movement of the card would cause the picture to be blurry.

On to the technical stuff, because this is how I got the entirety of the foremost flower in focus, from the point nearest us to that farthest from us. We need to understand the concept of ‘Depth of Field’, the distance between the closest an object can be to the camera and be in focus to the farthest it can be and still be in focus. In landscape photography, looking at mountain vistas in far distance, the DOF might be from only a few feet from the camera all the way out to infinity. But in a ‘macro’ or close-up shot like this, the DOF is likely to be more like from .125 in to .25 of an inch or less! To get the entire foreground flower in focus, I used a photographer’s technique called ‘focus-stacking,’ wherein I took FIFTEEN different shots of the flower, each focused on a different part of the flower a little further away from the camera than the previous one. My camera was connected to my laptop, so that after each exposure I could check and see that there was no movement of the flowers and that it was in focus where I wanted it to be in focus. After all the exposures were made, some 20 in order to get the final 15, I transferred them to the computer in my office.

There I checked to see and made adjustments so that each of the images was similar to the others – I didn’t want to have some that were brighter than the others, and some that were darker. I also didn’t want to have some with different color casts – bluer or redder say, than the others. I needed to have uniformity for this to work. There is no reason that there wouldn’t be uniformity, but things happen and adjustments often need to be made.

After adjusting the images for uniformity, I sent them to Photoshop, opening each as a different ‘layer.’ I don’t have time to explain layers except to say that like it sounds, each photograph was placed above another. I first instructed Photoshop to ‘align’ all the images, that is, to move them about so that all the parts of the different images lined up, much like one might square up a deck of cards. After all, in manually focusing the lens, I could have caused the camera to point in slightly different directions between shots. Being the amazing program that it is, Photoshop aligned the images quickly and well. I then instructed it to look at each image one by one and decide which parts of it were in focus and which weren’t. After throwing away the out of focus parts of each exposure, it merged all the aligned and in focus parts of each capture, giving us this magnificently focused result. Had I missed a point and left part of the flower out of focus in all the captures I made, that part of the flower would be strangely blurry while everything around it would be sharp.

I’ve tried several times to create a photograph like this, but each attempt had some defect. I’ve learned from these attempts, and this time, by exercising more care and taking more shots, I was able to create this beautiful image that is in focus from the very nearest part of the foremost flower to the furthest. I hope you enjoy it.

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