Composite image

Among many useful tips for better macro photographs shared by Lester Lefkowitz in Close-Up and Macro Photography, by B&H Photo (1:54:02), Lester emphasized trying to keep the focal plane parallel to the subject. Good idea. The problem is many subjects, such as odonate exuvia, aren’t flat and macro lenses are well-known for extremely shallow depth of field.

Focus stacking can be used to increase depth of field. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a composite image of two photos: one photo focused on the prementum; another photo focused on the anal pyramid. The two photos were shot at f/22, so the head and tail were acceptably in focus in both images. In contrast, the following composite image is perfectly in focus from head-to-tail.

100mm | ISO 100 | f/22 | 1/500s | 0 ev

The simple two-image focus stack worked better than some composite images that I have created using many more layers. I routinely shoot macro photos of the same specimen that are focused on different key field marks for identification. Encouraged by success, I think I’ll take a second-look at my photo library to see whether there are more candidates for creating simple composite images.

The Backstory

A Brook Snaketail dragonfly (Ophiogomphus aspersusnymph was collected by Bob Perkins on either 10 SEP 2017 or 03 OCT 2017 (the date is uncertain) along the New River in southwestern Virginia. The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 31 OCT 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult female. The preceding specimen is the exuvia from the nymph.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both photos in the composite image: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode; and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites in “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the composite image by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture.

  1. Open the photos as layers in Photoshop. (Two, in this case.)
  2. Edit/Auto-Align Layers…
  3. Edit/Auto-Blend Layers…
  4. Layer/Flatten Image
  5. Save

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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7 Responses to “Composite image”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wow, it’s hard to argue with success. The detail is astonishing as is the condition of the specimen. It’ll be hard to keep one in such pristine condition when collecting in the wild. It makes sense to me that stacking works best with a limited number of images. I have seen images online that stacked much larger groups of photos and imagine that it required a lot of editing and effort to tweak the final images.

  2. Kelly Stettner Says:

    Beautiful specimen and beautiful composite image, Walter! I applaud your dedication.

  3. Reed Andariese Says:

    Very nice! I tend to use f/8 and use more layers. But there again I am not usually shooting straight down, more at an angle for my subjects. Nice job!

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