Rainy day macros (updated)

The weather this week has been miserable. Oppressive grey skies, mizzle every day. Not heavy enough to be called rain but too heavy to be tagged as mist. I am still captivated by this stacking lark and I wanted to try out some software called Helicon Focus, which I have downloaded for a 30 day trial. So, on with the rain gear and off to the local reserve where I take many of my images. I took a different path this time towards Ma Nam Wat. Technically I guess it is not part of the reserve but I accessed it through the Lion’s Nature Education Centre. Surprisingly there were quite a few people around in the park and even on the path up the hill I encountered several dog walkers. A cheery lady with 3 large hounds chatted with me for a few minutes as I explained why I was crouched on the ground with a camera in the rain. She seemed impressed if not a little bemused. Then a chap with a brace of Dachshund, their little legs barely keeping their bellies off the ground.  I always find “sausage dogs” quite fascinating. I know they were bred to go down badger sets but did evolution really have to leave them positively selected in such an odd way? I guess so.

And what, you are doubtless asking, did my efforts bring forth?

Well, lets start with what I took last. I found a broken branch with a single fungus growing on it. As it was broken I felt no concerns about taking it 30 yards down the track to somewhere more sheltered and there I photographed the underside. Stacked or not stacked? Any guesses?

Fungus underside

It shows the detail nicely. A stunning honeycomb structure. And here, Madam, is your topside:

Fungus topside

Only a few inches across and as it was getting really rather wet by this stage I am afraid this shot was a tad rushed.

Next, definitely a single frame, a sort of lichen & algae tapestry, camouflaged to perfection. Can you see the tree?

Painted tree

If Pablo had done something this good he may well have become famous.

And finally, the piece de resistance, the one the lady dog-walker (careful where you put the hyphen) thought I was slightly batty to be taking in the rain:

Tree fungus

If my book on the fungi of Hong Kong ever arrives I am sure I shall be able to identify this but it looks vaguely like some sort of jelly fungus. Help me, someone! BTW I have a slightly different version of this at http://www.flickr.com/photos/29954808@N00/6924955321/ so you can play “spot the difference”. No prizes.

Now the interesting thing (to me anyway) is that although I managed to load Helicon Focus and get some sort of stacked image produced, I had no idea what to next. The image had ghosting and marking lines on it, presumably telling me I need to do a little extra to knock the image into shape. But what? And how? I need to investigate further. So I went back to good old CS4 and it didn’t do too bad a job. Two of the 4 images today are stacked and 2 are not. I could get to like this technique. How could you possibly have more fun?

Update: I guessed I was doing something wrong with Helicon Focus and so it transpired. I left my image on Default setting B for processing and I read later that this is used only for image stacking when the sequence of focus changes is front to back or vice versa. I focused in a rather more random order as I had an irregular shaped object. I should have opted for setting A. I reran the software using this and this was the result. There was some ghosting that I did not get in CS4 and I tried to clone this out but if I were doing this seriously I would spend a lot more time and care on it. Overall the stacking process was extremely fast.  See what you think:

Fungus underside using Helicon Focus

I think  this falls into the category of user error, or more coarsely put, RTFM.