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 exuvia from the nymph. P. lividus is a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

A focus-stacked composite image was created from 39 photos focused on the face and head of the exuvia. I had relatively little experience using Adobe Photoshop to make focus stacks when I created the first iterations of the Ashy Clubtail composite image. I was never satisfied completely with the final output, so I decided to do a do-over.


The updated version of the composite image was created using my “Latest focus stacking workflow.”


The version that I published in late-March 2018 was created using the RAW photos (CR2) from my Canon digital camera, without any post-processing. I tried to adjust the white balance and color palette of the resulting composite image, but was unable to get the “look” I wanted. The image is probably over-sharpened too.

Which version do you prefer?

I know the version I like more. Which do you prefer, After or Before?

Tech Tips

The preceding images are composites of 39 photos taken using the following equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 3x magnification); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to focus stack the photos and post-process the final output.

According to the “Focus Stacking Step Size Calculator” embedded in the “Focus Stacking” Web page, the “safe step size” is 0.213 mm for an aperture of f/11 at 3x magnification using a full-frame DSLR. That’s right, 0.213 mm! The safe step size is the incremental distance at which the in-focus areas of two photos overlap. The ruler on the inexpensive focus rail that I use is marked in millimeters only, so I attempted to move the focus rail in tiny increments in two passes: one pass moving from front-to-back; and a second pass from back-to-front.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to “Do-over”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wow. I keep going back and forth between the two images, looking for very subtle differences. I tend to like the whiter background of the second image, but the first one seems to have somewhat better contrast and detail, so I think I would choose it.

  2. Michael Boatwright Says:

    After is sharper and has a more natural look to me. 🙂

  3. Top 10 Photos of 2018 | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] 29 MAR 2018 | Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) | exuvia (face-head) […]

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