Extreme Focus stacking options

What technical feedback would you like if any?

This was my first time focus stacking with helicon focus…any users out there who could provide some tips? This was only a 3 shot blend as focusing on the trees in the back and then each of the two trunks covered the the DOF. Is it still better to shoot more focus points in a case like this? Is it always going to be impossible to get a perfect blend if I am shooting an extreme case like this? Helicon focus did a great job but I will still have to go in close in photoshop and select out the trunks and clone in some texture that didn’t stack perfectly.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Any pertinent technical details:

Just as mentioned, 3 shots for DOF. 70mm at f/13

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

I think it is pretty spectacular…
The layering is really nice and all is sharp.
The framing trees really work well.

Really awesome image concept mate and I have no issue with the 3 image stack looking at it on my phone. For these sorts of shots I’d figure out in the field what I want to be sharp, ensure I’ve got shots where each item is sharp, and go from there, erring on the side of overshooting if conditions permit.

I think the image itself is stunning. Your trees have this incredible softly glowing light about them that’s just gorgeous. Nice one!

This is pretty badass. Wicked conditions and love the comp. Not sure about how many images. Can always shoot more in the field and not use if you dont need. I think more images would help align better later. I find HF works really well. Try switching between blend modes too to see if that helps and can always use the retouch brush in the app itself.


This is a gorgeous composition. I really love the mood on this image. I am interested in trying HF, and this may push me over the edge.

Fantastic work. I would have been fine with some softness in the background. It helps separate the front from the back sometimes.

I hate focus stacking just for the reason that you described. That’s why I try my best to practice methods in the field that don’t require it whenever possible, but there are those times. It looks like you were close to the gateway trees.

Beautiful work Nathaniel. :slight_smile:

This is really great. Normally I don’t prefer framing images, as they feel too contrived. But this image has mood and clarity just where you need it.

Beautiful image, Nathaniel. I’m not a landscape person, but I’d suggest you ping Phil Hodgkins (Floral Moderator) on focus stacking. He has a lot of experience using both Helicon and Zerene for floral shots. While not quite the same thing the principles aren’t going to change.

Thanks for the tip! I am sure macro shooters know all the ins and outs of focus stacking better than I ever will haha

Thanks Wade~ Yeah I also felt the same way—must be that pine tree texture that changed my mind.

Thanks Gary. Yeah it does seem to be a lot of work—hopefully it gets easier with practice. This case was kind of extreme as even at f13 either then trees or the background were just blurry shapes. Maybe I chose the wrong image to give focus stacking a go for the first time haha

From my short experience it does seem far superior to photoshop for what it does. I like the lightroom integration with dng files just like lightroom merge to hdr.

Nathaniel, I’ve stacked up to 42 images when making telephoto landscape abstracts using Helicon. Phil Hodgkins and I have a bit of a discussion about software and artifacts in his thread “Shrub Rose” found in Flora and Macro Critique. I view focus stacking as a way to duplicate the dof that shifts and tilts makes possible with large format systems while using 35mm (or smaller) equipment. There is (and always will be) one fundamental optical difference, stacking always creates “overlap artifacts”, when two overlapping parts of an image cannot be made sharp in a single frame. These can be mostly fixed in post processing with a lot of detailed work. They also tend not to be seen in views like your post here where you only need a few shots and you’re working with enough dof in each shot to avoid the problem. The prime spot for an overlap artifact in this shot would be along the framing trunk on the right, there a bit of “lightness” near the top that might be an artifact, but it could also be the actual lighting.

Oh, yeah, your moody view looks great. What a fine collection of twisty tree trunks. The details in the framing trunks adds very well.

Wow, Do you have a link to the image that required 42 shots? That’s very interesting. And indeed there are some artifacts along the trunk lines that seem easy enough to clean up. In this case it was lucky because some light blurry artifacts blended in with the fog to make it hard to notice.

Wow this is a beautiful image! Nice framing of the prominent stand of trees in the center – and the fog is just right to make them not fight with the background trees. It’s super cool. I don’t have any idea on how to improve this but I wanted to chime in with a possibly simple suggestion on dealing with the focus stacking artifacts: It should be pretty simple to create an exact mask of the foreground trunks. You could use that to duplicate the layer and then just stretch the image a bit (or maybe warp or liquify it) to push the blurry parts till they’re hidden behind the trunks.

Just out of curiosity: Did you dodge/burn the center tree trunks to accentuate the light or is that how you got it in camera? It looks so freaking good.

Here’s a link to the 42 shot stack image on my web site.


Note that in this case there is no overlap in the image, so the stacking needed very little “clean up”.

Here’s a link to a ~10 shot stack where there was a ton of clean up on the bracts below the flower head.

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