Back to the Woods

Image stacking and more…

Having  experimented with the best way of getting the camera into low angle and difficult positions where fungi invariably love to grow, it was time to go out and conduct some more field tests.

Several things became apparent on my previous venture into the woods, the most significant being that shooting without a tripod or some other form of camera support was not an option. I like to stick to ISO 100 to maintain image quality, however I ended up shooting at f8 to f16 with an exposure time of up to 5 seconds. With image stacking a very stable support is imperative as each exposure sends slight tremors through the camera with a resultant softness in the final stacked image. This vibration is of little consequence on a solid surface, its another matter in the woods where the ground is predominantly unstable leaf litter and decaying vegetation, linked by long tentacles of brambles etc just below the surface, eager to trip you up.

I have used a modified table tripod with some success but was then restricted to one fixed height, while a conventional tripod even with extra wide spreading legs still leaves a tall center column. Fortunately a short length of broom handle, a 3/8″ bolt and Araldite came to the rescue and I ended up with a 3″ long center column which allows me to have the cameras as low as 4″ off the ground. With a certain amount of gentle persuasion I was able to slip the tripod with camera mounted into some very tight spots, with only inches of clearance above the ground.

Over last Saturday and this Tuesday and Wednesday, all fairly dull and overcast days, so excessive contrast was not going to be an issue, I took a range of photographs, some single shots and others image stacked of any interesting fungi I could find. With no shafts of sunlight, and shot predominantly in deep shade, to me the subjects have taken on a somber mood reminiscent of the locations they inhabit.

This series of six were all taken as single shots. This not only isolates the main subject but allows for much quicker shooting in locations unsuitable for any sort of camera support.

This following series of eight were all image stacked to both get the whole subject in sharp focus as well as show the immediate surroundings in greater detail. I find that much greater care has to be taken with composition and gardening when image stacking as distracting elements in the background, unseen through the camera, suddenly become very prominent in the final image. As such the success rate is a lot lower but quite rewarding when the result turns out as anticipated.

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