The Strawberry – A focus stacked macro image created with a focus rail and some Photoshop fun. Similar to the previous installment of The Smaller Side of Fruit, the focal point was adjusted across a number of images, which were then composited together. Rather than adjusting the focal point of the lens which changes the magnification, I adjusted the focal plane by moving the camera itself. This allowed me to blend the images by hand in Photoshop CC quite easily as the magnification remained constant across all of the images.
I stared at this photo for a long time, trying to find a nice balance between the layers. I stared at it so long in fact, that I completely missed the giant bruise in the center of the Strawberry. I guess that is a consequence of pixel peeping. Bruise or no bruise, I like this photo a lot. Just for fun, I ran all of the images through CombineZP and it spit out a pretty decent composite. I however, really did enjoy doing the layer masking by hand.
The Strawberry is a composite of 12 images shot at 1/20, f/8, ISO 100 and flash at ½ power. The image as a whole is pretty awesome in my eyes. But, taking a closer look at different zoomed in parts is really neat!
The Blackberry – New techniques used for this macro shot of a blackberry included the use of a soft box, focus stacking, and a piece of white acrylic. The Blackberry is the first installment in my new series The Smaller Side of Fruit. Previous installments of The Smaller Side of Snacks were illuminated by positioning my single external flash at multiple points around the subject and blending the images together in post. With this subject, I also had to deal with a common problem in macro photography, shallow depth of field. Those two factors combined would have required a lot of layer masking.
Enter the soft box and a piece of white acrylic. The 24” x 24” soft box was positioned 3 feet above, and pointed straight down onto the blackberry, which sat atop a piece of matte white acrylic. I took one test shot and knew this setup was the way to go moving forward. The Blackberry is a composite of 5 images shot at 1/60, f/4, ISO 100 and flash at ½ power. The focal length was adjusted for each image starting from the closest part of the blackberry and ending at the farthest. The 5 images were blended together in post to achieve a macro photograph with exceptional depth of field.
Post processing was surprisingly quick. Minor white balance adjustments and other tweaks were performed in Lightroom. All 5 images were opened as layers in Photoshop CC and auto blended. I was not in love with the results both with seamless color/tone turned on and off, and started preparing myself for a few hours of layer masking against the original set of images. I then discovered a wonderful piece of open source software called CombineZP. After a few minutes of crunching, CombineZP spit out a fairly clean final product that required far less layer masking against the original set of images. I look forward to exploring the two focus stacking solutions and as always, getting a really great look at an ordinary object, in this case a blackberry, with the help of macro photography and focus stacking.
The Hazelnut – used to make praline and often found in the company of chocolate. The Hazelnut is the fourth image in my macro photography series The Smaller Side of Snacks. One of the fun parts about shooting this series is that I get to eat all of the rejects as I hunt for subjects that have the right balance of character, these three fit the bill well. I quickly discovered they like to roll around, a lot. I had to square off the bottom of each nut, otherwise any tiny adjustment to the positioning of one resulted in the other two rolling away.
The Pistachio, quite possibly my favorite nut…I mean seed. This was the first image I shot for The Smaller Side of Snacks, however I just now finished the final composite. Pistachios have a thin brittle membrane called the seed coat. In the original image, a few pieces of the seed coat were lying beneath the shell adding a little complexity to the overall experience. The problem I ran into is that the seed coat is quite reflective. It caught the light in a unique way producing a very unnatural effect. I spent weeks coming back to this image and fighting with that unnatural reflection.
It turns out that compositing, blending, adding fill layers, or any of the post production processes I have been using in this series were not the problem. The unnatural effect was present in the RAW data of the image. It was not until this discovery that I asked myself an important question; what would this image look like without the seed coat accents beneath the shell?
I headed back to Photoshop and five minutes later, the seed coat was gone and The Pistachio was complete. I actually prefer the composition sans pesky, reflective, and brittle seed coat lying beneath the nut…I mean seed.
The problem with the seed coat looking “off” is likely due to it being out of focus. I was hoping to avoid these problems by using a large f-stop but upon close inspection of the below images it seems focus stacking would have worked pretty well.
Introducing The Peanut – the second image in my series The Smaller Side of Snacks. I have always enjoyed macro photography but have never really set out on a mission to capture a series of related images. The Peanut is a composite of three images with a bright white fill layer. It was a lot of fun blending the three images together with layer masks to achieve the overall exposure without blowing out the peaks or losing shadow details in the shell. The Peanut was a bit of a challenge in the post processing world and I found myself continuing to make minor tweaks that did not add to nor detract from the overall image. I finally called it complete when I realized that the little tweaks were leading me down the pixel peaking path and that I should either just be happy with the image, or re-shoot it. I chose to be happy. Who is up next? Our little green friend we all know and love, The Pistachio.
This was a fun shoot and I wound up with some interesting photos. I initially had a tough time selecting one over the others, but I bet you’ll agree this one stood out from the bunch.
I was inspired to start working on a new photo series after reading “Tips For Shooting Fascinating Close-up Photos” in the April 2013 issue of Popular Photography featuring a photographer named Bruce Peterson. I started with pecans because they had loads of salt which made for an interesting texture. I did not have a lot of success replicating the exact technique as described in the article. The solution I discovered was to take three exposures moving the strobe in a half-circle around the pecan. I used a white board behind the pecan to reflect the strobe in an effort to soften the shadows. I then layer masked the three images together to get a uniform exposure across the pecan. Lastly a solid white fill layer for the background to make the image pop. Next in the series…the almighty peanut.