Stacking up plants

Some time ago I started photographing unusual plants – succulents, insectivorous plants, and other weirdies – with a view to doing a small book on them.  This hasn’t happened and probably never will, but it gave me an incentive to try out different techniques.  One of these was focus stacking.

I find that it has some advantages over the more obvious way of getting a good depth of field, i.e. a small aperture.  For one thing, it is possible to be more selective over the plane of focus so that backgrounds can still be blurred while the main subject is sharp – in other words, it separates the subject from the background.  Secondly, by shooting a number of images at, say f8, you avoid the problem of diffraction that can spoil images taken at very small apertures.

Here are some of the results.  The first is a straightforward shot of a succulent alpine, Sempervivum montanum, that is made up of just three stacked frames, that I shot in the Italian Alps.  There are more shots from this trip in the photo gallery, here.

Next is an Australian brush honeysuckle, Amylotheca dictyophleba, that I shot in Queensland.  This consists of about eight stacked frames and helped to separate the blooms from the tangle of small branches amongst which it was growing.  There are more photos from this trip here.

The last  is a studio shot of one of the sun pitchers, Heliamphora, which are insectivorous plants that grow on the table mountains, or tepuis, of the Guiana shield in South America.  For this one I decided to stack just enough frames to get the main group of three traps sharp and allow the one at the back to stay out of focus.  This seems to give the image more depth.

Stacking was achieved using Helicon Focus

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