Monday, March 28, 2016

In Search of Focus - Focus Stacking

Like most photographers, when I have a shot that is in great focus, I have to wonder if I really had any part in the process.  Sure, most shots come out well.  But when one is right on the money, it does stand out.
Especially that pesky Depth of Field (DOF) thingie that can ruin a great shot.  
I started looking into photo (focus) stacking.
This is a process that starts at one focal point, takes a photo, then moves to another focal point and takes a picture and repeats the process as much as necessary.  It may be two shots.  It may be hundreds of shots.  The trick is to get some point of the shot in perfect focus.  And let the other shots do the same.
And then of course, some software package has to find all those points that are in perfect focus and blend them together.
Today's project is with Helicon's Focus and Remote.  (  I did some research on photo stacking software and stumbled on this package.  I'm also looking for a remote package I can run off of a tablet to run the camera and this suite had all the pieces.  So, I'm now on the 30 day trial.
I have a C5A/B model that will be the perfect subject for this test.  It is about 20 inches long and has some detailed markings.  It will do the trick.
The particulars are 48mm, f/11 and 1.6 seconds.  Put that in a DOF blender and you get a DOF of about 6 inches.  One other difference, the original shot is a RAW image, and the processed image is JPEG.  But the point of the exercise is the focus difference between the nose and the tail.
Conventionally I have lots of options.  One is go back to the DOF calculator and find a setting for 20 to 24 inches.  But I may not like what it tells me.  I know for this lens at 50mm, f/11 will get me better focus.   I could play with ISO and speeds.  Blah.
If I were to take a conventional shot, with the focus point on the nose this is what I get.
I've left the image snap shots at 1:1 - there are no reduction issues.
The unaltered image.

OK, looks OK?  Yea, but.
Here is the nose, a bit closer up.  (Remember, this is the start of the focus points.)

The nose is in focus.  There is some detail in the lines.  (Also look at the blue background, a towel.  Just a bit out of focus.  It is a total of 36 inches behind the nose.  Remember this.)

Here is the tail.

Enough said.

With the photo stacking:  This is a stack of 7 shots.  To be honest, the first two shots had absolutely nothing in focus.  But that's OK.  I'd rather have too many than not enough.

Here is the stacked picture:

Well, for me pretty much instantly I can see the background is all in focus.  yea, the model is in focus as well.  let's go to the close ups.

The nose:

The nose is pretty much the same, but wow, look at the blue towel.  It looks like there is a bit out of focus on the left.  There's a blending issue.

The Tail:

The tail has a lot more definition.  Looking at the flag painted on the tail, it has some definition.  And again, the blue background has much more definition.

Google focus stacked photos on the web.  There are some pretty interesting shots out there.  Most of the ones that catch my eye are done with macro lenses, something that is missing from my inventory of equipment.  

This was interesting project.  And for the next 29 days, it won't cost me a thing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Church Cove in Winter

On my walk around Flint last week, I passed this interesting sight.  This is one of the entrances to the St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Saginaw St.
I know from past experiences that cut stone and wood will produce some wonderful effects with HDR processing.  I also know snow is a crap shoot with HDR.  I like darker looks with the way I'm going to go after this - but I know the snow will not play well.  It will be very noisy.  I don't want pure white snow as it will look out of place.  I'll think of something.

The basics of the shot are:  50mm  ISO 200  Manual Mode

The base shot:

Exposure :  1/80 at f/11

The under:

Exposure :  1/640 at f/11

The over:

Exposure :  1/10 at f/11

I processes these three photos through Photomatix.  The effect I came up with looked like this.

I really like the door and the stone - but as expected the snow doesn't favor me at all.  I'd like to keep some of the detail, but lighten it up significantly.  I tried to lighten the snow just by targeting the snow areas, but wasn't crazy about how that turned out.  My next trick was to make a print solely for the snow - and try to blend it in with the use of masking.  This is the photo effect that I chose - only for the snow.

I masked out everything but the snow and used an opacity setting of 50%.  That lightened up the snow - pretty much as I wanted.

And so here is the final product, with one other tweak.  I removed a small blue sign that was attached to the gate.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Walking around Flint - Bernie's HQ

The D7200 arrived last Saturday.  I've spent a lot of time in the last week going over the menu items and set up.  As with anything, over time functionality of new models either gets more complicated or more useful.  And this new camera is the same.  I needed a book to get thought it.

The basics are the same.  Nikon's use and names of internal camera functions are the same, but the numbers are very different.  For example, my D90 had 11 auto-focus points.  This one has 51.  How did I ever get by?  Both the D90 and D7200 have two auto-focus modes - but the new one is so fast.

So after a few days of shooting everything in the office - multiple times - it was time to take the D7200 on the road.  Today wasn't the best day, in fact it was cold and a bit of snow.  But I really needed to get out and do whatever I could to see the new one in action.

This past Saturday on my way to the Flint Farmer's Market, I passed the Bernie Sander's presidential HQ for Flint.  For all the wrong reasons, Flint is in the news and for a few days at least the center of the Democratic Party focus.  I've been told I don't have many pictures of Flint.  Well, this was too good to pass up.  I have more pictures from this morning's walk, but I'll start with this one.  I don't know of any in my circle of friends who are socialist - as they all have jobs.  So take this as it is, a subject photo.  Not a political endorsement.

1/250   f/11
EV 0.0
Manual Mode
ISO 200
Focal Length 55 mm

With this set of photos today, I completed my journey to the Dark Side as far as how much the camera helps me.  In the beginning as we all do I started with shooting with AUTO mode.  Let the camera do everything.  Until recently, I used APERTURE mode.  I wanted to keep the aperture consistent because most of my work finds its way to HDR merging.  Today, I cut all dependence on the modes and went MANUAL.  And somehow I got through it all.

Clearly not open for business on a Sunday morning.  To me, there is a lot going on here.  Lots and lots of lines.  Lines everywhere.  I like the blues, I like the oranges.  I like the bricks and other masonry.  

This is a single photo using Photomatix - and mostly the Surreal settings.  However in some spots, the processing left flat white areas that possibly caught your eye and that wasn't what I was going for.  So I did anther processing for the same shot except with a different setting that didn't have all the whites.  I used the second shot as my base and laid the Surreal settings on top with a 75% opacity setting.  It crushed the whites and brought out the definition in the bricks.  Worked for me.

I tried to do all the right things.  Use a tripod.  Get the right light.  Get the right focus point.  Not sure if all of that worked for me, plus the new camera, but today's shots were so sharp without any processing.  Think I'm going to like this.