4 September to 5 October 2021, Canberra, ACT
Small worlds in rain.
(Acacia in bloom).
I live backing onto a nature reserve. The first five images are on the path at the back of the houses, no more than fifty yards or so from the back gate.
I decided to get some practice going out and shooting in heavy rain. Some places you travel to you may well encounter it and not want to waste too much time sitting around. I found it has interesting potential.
Almost all the rest are further out in the bush, no longer in heavy rain, and within about twenty minutes’ walk if I’m not stopping to take photographs.
There’s no real need to describe most of these images (though feel free to ask questions). I’ll add notes on how I took them at the end.
As you may have noticed at the top, they were taken over a period of about a month.
These two were at a different location, at the Jerrabombera Wetlands.
These are on a young eucalypt just outside the back gate. They look like caterpillars but they are actually spitfire bugs or sawfly larvae and are harmless to people and animals. Sawflies are a kind of stingless wasp. They are closest to the ancestral form of all hymenopterans (ants, wasps, bees and sawflies) and survive as fossils from the Jurassic.
On the back path by the fence again.
Back in the bush.
Though I didn’t encounter the heavy rain again, many of these images are taken during or after lighter rain, which brings out colours and changes the feeling.
There are thirty-seven images here and only five were taken as a single image (marked with an “s” below them). The rest were focus stacked. Macro images have a very small depth of field, but to increase that you can take images at slightly different points of focus. Then you need to combine them later in post-production using Photoshop or a dedicated program such as Zerene Stacker or Helicon Focus. That’s focus stacking.
Focus stacking doesn’t require a macro lens or subject. With a wide angle lens in a landscape you may not need many exposures. At the extreme, using a 4mm circular fisheye lens, it required just two exposures to be in focus from around three inches to infinity (that’s the Pimilea Physodes image in this earlier post). Conversely, macro depth of field is very small and I took as many as 600 exposures for some images in this post.
Anyone can focus stack, provided you have appropriate software to combine the images. It’s good to stop down to f11 or so (to reduce the number of exposures) and useful to use manual focus, preferably with focus peak highlighting if you have it.
At the most basic level, you have the camera on a tripod, take separate exposures and carefully adjust the focus for each shot. Alternatively, you can set the shutter going on fast burst and slowly move the focus through your desired range. In both cases you need to be careful not to leave focus holes where you moved the focus too much between exposures.
It’s easier if your camera automates the process. I have Nikon D850, Fujifilm X-T2 and Fujifilm X-E4 cameras that do that. They all operate a bit differently. The D850 and the X-T2 fire away from a starting focus point for a set number of exposures. You also have to set the delay between exposures (usually 0) and the focus adjustment between exposures (usually a middling value in the range).
With the D850, when you finish a burst, the focus stays on the last exposure so if you haven’t specified enough frames, you just set it going again for the rest. With the X-T2, it goes back to initial focus so if you didn’t specify enough frames, you need to increase the number and start again. But it does make it easier to make a panorama in the same focus range. Three of the images above were also panoramas, combining two or three focus stacks.
The X-E4 can operate like the X-T2 but it also has an Auto option where you can specify the start and end points, so you don’t end up shooting lots of autofocus frames.
In all cases, it is better to start a little before what you see as the initial focus point because you can easily miss what that really is. When taking macro focus stacks, you need to carefully look through at different points of focus before taking the shot and even then it is easy to miss debris and extraneous elements that can disturb your composition.
It’s not necessary to use a tripod, though it definitely helps. The second acacia image, that I have marked with a “t” was hand held (with a long telephoto lens). There was some wind too and I was impressed how well Zerene Stacker dealt with that. It did have a clean background against the tree though. It would not have worked had there been other plants also blowing around further back. The previous three images (from the previous day) may also have been hand-held.
The six images at the back of the houses were all taken with the D850 and a Sigma 180mm macro lens. All the others were taken with Fuji, mainly the X-E4. Most of those were taken with the 80mm macro (sometimes with 1.4x teleconverter) and I also used 8-16mm, 14mm and 100-400mm lenses.
This post is the second of a short series of images from Lockdown in Canberra. The previous one is here, two posts back. The next one is (insert link when available). They are interspersed with Uzbek monochrome posts.