Refinements in focus stacking workflow

By trial and error, I’m slowly refining the workflow that I use to create focus-stacked composite images. My goal is maximizing efficiency while minimizing unexpected results. I’m planning to publish a step-by-step “how to” tutorial after my workflow is honed to perfection. Hah! I’m not sure that’s attainable, but I’m working on it.

In the meantime, here are two more composite images created using the latest refinements in my focus stacking workflow.

Both composite images were created from three photos: one focused on the head/prementum; another focused on the middorsal body; and the last focused on the anal pyramid (terminal appendages).

I started using the High Pass filter in Photoshop to sharpen images and I am pleased with the results.

Sharpening doesn’t fix out-of-focus areas, such as the far hind leg in both images. I’m not sure what the “sweet spot” is for the Canon 100mm macro lens; the consensus seems to be photos are sharpest at f/8. I shoot at f/22 for single images with one focus point. I have been testing f/18 for the two- and three-photo focus stacks published recently, but as you can see, I should probably add a fourth photo focused on the farthest part of the subject.

The Backstory

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividusnymph was collected by Bob Perkins. (The date and location where the specimen was collected are unknown.) The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 21 March 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult female. This specimen is the exuviafrom the nymph. P. lividus is a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all three 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 images by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture. Although the round-trip has a few detours in my experimental workflow, there are fewer unpleasant surprises along the way. Worth the extra steps, in my opinion.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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