I’ve been a macro photography fan forever. It’s an awesome frontier of photography with literally limitless options for creativity and subject matter. I’ve got the 105mm Micro Nikkor f/2.8 and it’s been a phenomenal workhorse of a lens, especially when paired on the D800 (or any newer super-mega-pretzel sensor). One thing that was missing from my macro photography was the ability to stack images and make one ultra-sharp, hyper-focal image. When you’re shooting macro, it’s impossible to get everything in focus the way you want even stopped way down to f/7Billion.
Enter the wonders of Photoshop. I never used to use it. I had a stand alone version Lightroom that I kept using forever because I didn’t want to move to Adobe’s
RIPOFF subscription system. However, when I upgraded to Mac OS X Catalina (the WORST version of Apple software I’ve ever used and my biggest regret in computing), it upgraded to only 64-bit software so my old 32-bit version of Lightroom was no good no mo’. I was forced to upgrade to the subscription from Adobe and I got Photoshop for the first time. I had always used open source software GIMP which was great, but it didn’t have the auto-magic image stacking ability like Photoshop does. Having a computer do all the layer masking stuff for you is the best thing ever.
There’s lots of elaborate guides on how to do this on the internet but here’s how I did it. You bulk edit your macro photos in Lightroom to normalize colours and whatever else you want, then:
- Export the files to full-size JPEG
- In Photoshop, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar, choose Scripts, then choose Load Files into Stack.
- In the Load Layers dialog box, set Use to Files, then click Browse. Navigate to your images on your computer, select them and click Open.
- Back in the Load Layers dialog box, select Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images, then click OK.
- In the Layers panel, click on the top layer, then Shift-click on the bottom layer to select all layers.
- Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Auto-Blend Layers.
- Crop the image with the Crop Tool to remove problem areas around the edges.
And that’s it! You get a glorious product in the end that is sharp and detailed all the way through your intendedly sharp region of the photo. It’s pretty slick.
So that’s it. If you ever wondered how people got those incredibly sharp and detailed macro photos, this is how. I always remember seeing macro photos of bugs that were razor sharp all the way through and wondering what manner of sorcery it was! But when you look up the magician’s sleeve, it’s not that tricksy after all. 😎
The Crocuses have once again returned to the prairies. I saw the most perfect one ever today out back on the prairie and I went back to get a couple macro shots.
Here is the hi-tech lighting setup. Full noon day sun through a reflector scrim. Really nice wrapping and soft light. Nikon D800 with the 105mm macro lens.
They truly are a magnificent aspect of prairie life! 😎
So we had some really neat chunky snow flakes the other day. I ran out early in the morning and nabbed a few macro photos while the wind was low. The trusty 105mm Nikkor and the stalwart Nikon D800 were the weapons of choice for this hunt – maximum resolution and resolving power!
It’s incredible to see the intricacies of frozen water up close like this. I have included a square cropped image here of the larger picture to see more of the detail.
It’s pretty wild stuff to see!
The “ball” images above here are frozen chokecherries. They are almost the same image, the only difference is lighting. On the darker blue image I lit the chokecherry with a flashlight in close and feathered a bit to give the image some shape and specular highlights – which we didn’t get with the flat cloudy ambient light. #Sparkle 🤩
In this block of images you can see the crops of the above. The creative genius of God on display for our viewing pleasure! 😎👍🙏
Enjoyed a little photo walk for an hour late this afternoon. Gorgeous weather for a stroll in the ol’ ravine behind our place. One camera, one lens: D800 & 105mm macro. Still such a versatile combination. 😎 Just meandering along, looking for light, colour & texture. Very therapeutic!
The kids wanted to go looking for crocuses yesterday. So did I. 🙂 So we went out back and found a few little bunches. I’m not sure if they are just starting to come up or are nearly done. Normally they’ve come up even through a light snow. But this year the weather has been wonky so say the least. I feel a special attachment to crocuses as they are “Saskatchewan’s Flower” at least anecdotally. 😉 I’ve seen more crocuses than tiger-lilies, I’ll put it to you that way. heehehe…..
About the technique for nabbing these photos. I went out with a collapsible reflector/diffuser to block the harsh sunlight that was pouring in. I had my D800 & 105mm macro for this detail-rich gig. I was shooting at apertures of f/16 or f/32 so I needed more light reach this at ISO 100 and 1/250. I used my Orbis ring flash and SB-900 synced with an SC-29 cord. I basically was able to set the Orbis on edge on the ground, which doubled as a rest, and shoot right through it. It worked great. 😎 The macro detail that the D800 can capture is really tremendous! Here’s a 100% crop and the full shot beneath.
In Canada, we change our money designs like most normal people change their clothes. Our brand spankin’ new 20s are out and as I looked them over, I couldn’t help but notice that Her Majesty looks, well, rather chapped. Mildly annoyed. Like when she saw prince Harry’s party pics from Vegas. They showed her that and took her picture and now, it’s on the 20 dollar bill! And the more you look at it, the scarier and more intimidating it is. Like she’s peering right into your soul and knows what you did! uhuhuhu… shudder! 😯
Regan’s birthday present finally arrived! She wanted some new bling and bling she got. To go along with it, I decided I’d take snapshots of everyone listed on the necklace . . . in black and white. 😎 It’s timeless and awesome.
This post could be called D800 Snugs part 2. I took full advantage of Teresa’s camera while she was here. Ironically, I have been wanting to get a macro shot of a peacock feather for a long, long time. However, since the D800 came out, I’ve been waiting to use it to capitalize on the megapixels and get blown away by the sheer awesomeness of the detail. It didn’t disappoint. The 105mm micro lens is unreal sharp. I used it on the feather but also for the ad hoc portrait of Talitha . . . who’s last name is Peacock. Go figure. Serendipity? 😎 Talitha is a super rad girl and, she’s a harpist which makes me cool and couth by association. Check out her music here: http://peacocksmusic.com. I was blown away by the portrait. Goes without saying that Talitha is beautiful, but the quality of the file is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The D800 really brings it! 😎 The feather image is going huge on my wall. I’ll see how 36×48 looks! 🙂
A friend of ours was on her way through the hood and was able to stop by for a couple days visit. It was super fun to have Teresa and her (and our new) friend Talitha stop by. We haven’t hung out for many moons as Teresa and her husband have been living in New Zealand for a couple of years. Great to have them back in Canada! And, it was a grand occasion for me additionally because I got to play with the Nikon D800! Teresa is an awesome photographer now based out of Calgary, AB. Check her out at http://teresarehmann.com. We traded some photography as she needed some updated portraits and we needed a family photo that has all of us in it! bwahahhaah… 😎 And, I got to test the D800 extensively. And test I did, plugging all my lenses onto it and running it through it’s paces. I know the sensor is good. But I didn’t know it was THAT good. It is unbelievable. I’m really not exaggerating here. The image quality, the sharpness, the detail, the contrast, the colour, it’s nearly beyond description. And for what I do, portraits, landscapes and macro stuff, it’s a match made in heaven. HOWEVER. And it’s a big however, the files are so huge that they are unruly. We shot everything in RAW pretty much and editing them on my 3.06 iMac with 8 GB of RAM was painful. Slow. Excruciatingly so – packed in the whole Mac and needed a reset once. But it’s worth it! The images are unbelievable, especially with my 105mm macro lens. “Wicked sharp” has a whole new meaning to me! There’s just sooo much detail and nothing hides from that sensor. Probably need a new computer though . . . 😀
I posted some weird photos of a moth last night on Facebook. After I saw this strange thing, I thought it was a hummingbird! But it turned out to be a form of a hummingbird moth. Which makes sense. Because it looked both like a moth and a hummingbird. heheheehh….. 😉 I was out in the yard last night trying to get a macro photo of a Monarch Butterfly that has been hanging around our place for the last few days. Our lilac bushes are in full bloom and they are drawing all manner of creepy crawly. So I waited and waited and waited and finally the Monarch showed up. But they were very finicky and flighty. It proved very tricky to creep up close and nab a shot. But I was happy to be able to get one at all. I was using my 150mm macro lens and even on my DX format body, it’s reach almost isn’t enough. I think that Sigma’s 150mm would be just that much nicer, in terms of reach, for going after the creepy crawlies. I also nabbed a bumble bee shot. You can’t tell from the photo but that bee was so huge that she had her own area code! heheheh… 😎
Challenge of the Day: Love.
Production Note: I had seen this kind of wedding photo before and I love how the shadow of the ring makes a heart in the spine of the book. A nice subtle touch for extra lovey-doveyness. 😛
One of the most challenging macro shots is the venerable bumble bee. They are constantly moving. It’s almost impossible to nab a head shot of one, even with long glass. My 105 f/2.8 isn’t long enough. I’m not sure even a 200 would be adequate unless you happen to luck out and be in the right place at the right time (which applies to all photography in general). But it’s a super fun challenge nonetheless. I was out on Sunday afternoon with my big silver reflector trying to get the holy grail of bumble bee shots in Fonstad’s apple blossoms. I had great full sunlight which was really nice when reflected. But picture me holding my D300s & 105mm lens in one hand and the big reflector in the other trying to nab macro shots! heheheeh… not a pretty sight. 😉 It’s impossible to use a tripod as the bees move way too much way too fast, so everything had to be handheld. I had to shoot in Aperture priority mode because my light changed constantly as I ran around the shady side of the trees or lit them up with the reflector. I just had to pray the camera would pick a shutter speed fast enough to nab the little buggers. hehhhehe… All in all it was a fun way to grab some sunshine for an hour. The holy grail shot is still out there somewhere!
For the record and the journal, I’m sick of rain. Thoroughly sick of it. As I’m sure all the farmers are too. But, it does provide some way cool macro opportunities. I grabbed my 105mm Macro and an SB-600 flash and went out in the rain, hunting drops and whatever I could find. The trickiest thing ever was the near hurricane force winds that were blowing everything around and drying up the raindrops at a rapid rate. I had to move quickly. As I was also using flash, I wanted to try some edgier light stuff. I dialled in Manual exposure of 250th at f/11-18 and then simply flicked the strobe at 64th power. A wee flick of light is all it took. I tried zooming the flash head too from 24mm to 85. I found that the wider swath created a nicer look. It would be sweet to have Nikon’s ring flash setup but it’s way too much cash. I think I will develop some ghetto form of a 2 flash setup for on the go macro stuff. I’ll put the order into the R&D department of Schultz Photographic… 😉
I saw a really rad photo on the strobist site and wanted to see if I could recreate it. Whilst down at Menards, I bought myself a sweet piece of acrylic that was on sale for 20% off. What a deal! For like 6 US bones you have instant way cool reflections for still life and macro shots. How can you go wrong?! 😉 I also dug out my D80 and took a shot of the setup so you can see the magic in the making. Two strobes being fired wirelessly from the commander flash blasting all kinds of white light everywhere. I also used some foam sheet craft stuff to pickup some black color for depth and contrast. I think it worked out OK. I might use it as one of my Black & White photo entries for this weeks photo club night on Friday. 🙂
I went out on a bumble bee hunt with my macro lens the other morning before I borrowed it to a friend. Had to get my macro fix. Fortunately the weather has been ridiculously cold and I haven’t missed much macro action. I’ve been waiting for a whole year for my nan king cherry trees to blossom and attract the big buzzers. One of them showed up so I gave chase and nabbed a couple quick shots before he buzzed off for good. Our tulips in the front yard were also in full bloom, backlit wonderfully by early morning sunlight. And, this years crop of bush bunnies were also munching away. So I nabbed a couple shots of them too. All in all, not a bad little walk!
What do wood ticks and Osama bin Laden have in common? Everyone hates them and rejoices when they’re dead! (howz that for politically correct?) 😉 I had this sucker crawling on me tonight and decided I would try to take pictures of him before I
buried it at sea squashed it. Ugly little vampires!!!! Yuck!
Last night my wife saw a spider and sent me on a mission to go squash it. She said, “it’s huge!” I said “is it Macro worthy?!” 😉 I get downstairs and behold, here’s a tiny spider about the size of your pinky nail. I thought it was cool and went and grabbed my macro setup. In this case I used off camera flash to add dimension to the photo. I noticed that this poor spider had lost a limb and had this big bubble of bug blood oozing off of it. Yuck! But a cool photo.
I new it was in trouble so I put it on a piece of white computer paper and card stock corner to act as a make shift light box. The light went from my SB-600 camera right and also from my pop up flash too to try and wrap light around the whole spider with minimal shadows. Worked out OK as an impromptu Macro shoot.
R.I.P. little spider. 😉
The hills are alive with singing! And crocuses! And also, regrettably, wood ticks. Be on your guard for the vampires if you go into the fields in search of the flower of the prairies! 🙂
Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Spring Hath Sprung Batman! I went out to my car this morning to grab something and I looked down on my stoop and behold! What do I see? A baby grasshopper sunning himself! Unbelievable! Spring must truly be here, or, we’re getting the next Biblical plague. 🙂 …Which might be true, because as I was bent over taking pictures, a Jehovah’s Witness came up and gave me some propaganda. hehehheeh… 😉 Anyways, when I saw this vermin on my front step, I quickly ran and grabbed my 105mm Micro lens and got in close for some way cool macro shots. Luckily it was still cold out and the little guy was slow. I was able to focus about two inches away from him. I truly hope with every ounce of my being that this means spring is truly here to stay!!! 🙂
No, this post isn’t about dental work. 🙂 Extraction is a concept used by many landscape photographers when they want to shoot not only the over all scene but also zoom in and “extract” parts of the landscape. Such as a plain with a cabin in the foreground, a wall of trees behind it and some mountains behind them with the sun sneaking up over the horizon. The photographer could extract the glowing mountain ridge, a close up of the cabin, the trees, etc. Extraction is taking a picture from within a picture, so to speak.
The same concept applies to Macro photography. Regan did a class at the family centre on making flower arrangements. She did an excellent job and the end product was beautiful! An arrangement like this provides tons of Macro photography opportunities. Using extraction, you eye up the over all “landscape” of the arrangement, and extract photos from within it. Macro lens do especially well at this because of the shallow depth of field and the closeness with which you can focus to the subject.
PS: Phoebe is here because she’s cute. 🙂
Our neighbour dropped by this week and brought with her some daffodils for life from the Cancer Society. They were just beginning to open up which presented some pretty fun macro shots. Such a beautiful sign of hope for everyone who is fighting cancer and who has conquered it. 🙂
Whilst enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I looked out and saw that it was another ridiculously cold prairie morning. It was -28ºC raw temperature, and then with the wind it was actually -39ºC which is insane. Why do we live here?! 😉 Oh well, gotta take some pictures. I looked at our patio door, you know the old school, nasty, uninsulated, aluminum, gong show, resource wasting kind. It was nicely decorated with frost. I quickly ran and grabbed my D300s, my cable release, tripod and 105mm Macro VR lens. I set it up at 1:1 focusing and made some compositions.
I just love Macro! There is so much going on all around us. If we would only open our eyes to see that we are surrounded by zillions of photos all the time! 🙂
One other insight from the photo shoot this morning. Camera lenses suffer from two main pitfalls. Chromatic Aberration at really low f stops and Lens Diffraction at really high f stops. All lenses suffer from these things, some are better than others. I took two photo crops to illustrate Lens Diffraction (the image gets tooooo sharp and becomes blurry) as a comparison at f/18 and f/51.
This is where knowing your lens and doing your own lens sharpness testing is a real benefit. You’ll know how far you can go before your lens diffraction gets so bad it actually wrecks your shots. This is more applicable to landscapes where you want a higher f/stop for lots of detail, but it also applies to macro too! 🙂 Click the images below for a larger look.
I found this technique on the internet awhile ago when I was trying to find the best way to capture macro water splashes. It’s very challenging to get drops of water, but this technique gives the photographer a lot of control over the situation.
I tried to do the technique tonight and had a lot of fun doing it!