Macros – stage three.

In a response to a comment on my last macro post I alluded to the fact that I was being coaxed and coached towards trying ‘stacking’ or as Scott Kelby calls it, Depth of Field extension.

Steve Gingold, a fine photographer from Massachusetts, explained the broad principles to me and the actual keystrokes I checked in Kelby’s book, The Adobe Photoshop CS4 book for digital photographers. It’s a pretty snappy title but it got me over the line. Essentially I wanted to maximize the DoF on my subject and leave the background out of focus. Using a small aperture risks having the background in focus too, thus losing the ‘pop’ of the subject.

Well, here are 2 examples of what I managed:

Blossom time at LNEC

Bracket fungus

As I said to Steve, “I am frankly amazed at the upper shot – 7 images combined and shot in a very light breeze. It may not be perfect but it is far better than I could have done with 1 frame.

The lower one was comparatively easy as the log didn’t move but I only used 4 and I think I needed a fifth for the very top rim.”

So still some work to do but a whole lot better than last time and streets ahead of my original ham-fisted efforts. I also learned today that it is easy to get carried away and over use this technique.

Look at this image:

Winter's End

I took about 7 frames of this but finally decided that a single frame was better than the stacked one. Note the clean background rendering my efforts superfluous. Doh! I also wasted ten minutes trying to think of a snappy title for this and as I was at my wit’s end I settled on Winter’s End.

Each of these others is a single frame.

Bunk fungi


Graphina lichen?

This is presumably a Graphina lichen but I don’t know which species. It could also be a message in hieroglyphs left by the ancient Egyptians when they visited Sai Kung thousands of years ago. However this is unrecorded in the history of the town so it is a very long shot. It might also be a sketch for an early Lowry. The Sai Kung matchstick men. Anyway, I like it.

The great thing about macro photography is that it leads you to look at things differently. I am now looking not just at the whole but at the parts, trying in my mind to isolate something that will be aesthetically pleasing out of context. It also forces you to work at a different pace. Slow is not my normal speed in life. Shooting these frames gives me time to reflect, try out different angles, explore the depth of the picture and to visualize a finished image. Heavy stuff, eh?

Anyway, I must finish as I have another few frames to stack before bedtime. Toodle pip.


14 thoughts on “Macros – stage three.

  1. Wow! These are all so good. Bunk fungi. Quite a name there. I’ve heard the slang expression, “that’s just a lot of bunk” meaning what had been told as truth is not actually true. Hence the the word “bunk.”
    Moving right along, I can’t think of a better coach than Steve. No wonder these are all so good. I’m not into the technical aspects of stacking. I just know what I like and these are excellent. I really like the colors in the photo of the bracket fungus.

    • Ah Yvonne, I made up the expression ‘Bunk Fungi’. I thought they were on top of one another like bunk beds 🙂

      I have learned a huge amount from Steve. He is a very good teacher.

  2. “Slow is not my normal speed in life” – me too, most of the time and I’m always interrupting people. When it comes to taking photos and image processing, I can be rather slow and I like being ‘forced’ to take my time.

  3. Amazing photos as always. Winter’s End also reminds me of a heron I know who goes to Holland Park pond for breakfast; or a withered bird of paradise – at Winter’s End. I love the world of the close up in Nature. Thanks for posting.

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us. I like doing macro with flowers but have not been successful so far. I hope to try and try and try again and this is very encouraging.

    • Thanks for commenting Bugsy. My journey has been a long one and only recently, in retirement, do I feel I am making progress. My mind is clearer and fresher and I can absorb some of the techniques more easily through practice. I am sure you will get to your goal with flowers.

  5. Very nice, Andrew. I’m afraid I don’t really have the patience for macro work. I enjoy it when its well done (like here), but usually end up finding myself being more frustrated than anything when I try to practice it. Focus stacking is in my repertoire of skills though…comes in handy for landscape work as well.

    I like “Winter’s End.” A very pleasing comp and color palette.


  6. Lovely description of the technique you’re learning to use. This may sound like a silly question but you must be using a tripod to do the stacked shots right?

  7. Very beautiful images! I would love to do some macros myself. I love the top one. The patterns in the bottom are really interesting. So amazing what you can find in nature when you really look.

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