Image Stacking – Elation & Frustration

After the rain most of Wednesday, by the Friday I had expected a bumper crop of Boletus fungi, however this was not to be. The rain though prolonged has not managed to penetrate the deep canopy of leaves in the woods, so although many tracks were good and muddy, the areas under the heavy undergrowth preferred by most fungi remained quite dry. Dead log dwelling varieties however found in slightly clearer terrain had benefited from the rain, only to to smashed to pieces in some cases by people in fits of wanton vandalism. What other reason would a mature adult have for meaninglessly destroying something, not collecting for food, but just to smash it up for fun! Later in the day I did catch a couple in there 50’s doing just that as I was photographing some fungi, very low, on one side of a large fallen tree. Hearing a scraping noise I got up only to find one of them smashing off several large clumps of fungi with one of there walking poles. Incensed, I angrily inquired, why have you murdered those fungi? Did they offend you in some way? Or are you just sick? Very red faced they quickly walked away, I only hope having learnt a lesson, which I doubt!

That group of fungi behind the fallen tree were were one of several clumps I decided to photograph using image stacking, and the ones that had been smashed were to be my next subjects. Being of quite some depth there was no way a single shot could capture more than a centimeter or so in sharp focus, even well stopped down, but image stacking should allow me much more depth in the final images. I took a range of subjects not only fungi but damp mosses and seed heads, most from low down and very close up, so requiring up to 30 shots to make up the final image. As the processing part of image stacking is quite resources hungry I decided to leave all of that to my home computer and just use the laptop to capture the files, especially as a laptop screen outdoors, is not the best way to assess an image beyond basic composition.

Having processed the results at home, is when I experienced both elation and frustration. Elated at the fact I had a very good depth of field in the images and was generally happy with the overall exposure and composition, what caused the frustration were the number of artifacts and ghosts around some of the fungi etc and especial the strange ‘newtons rings’ effect in parts of the out of focus background. What exactly causes these different unwanted artifacts is what I’m now working on. It does seem to manifest itself at its worst when trying to attain a very large depth of field, having a bright and complex background of varying depth, and having parts of the main subjects overlapping in a great many places, as you tend to find in a large clump of fungi. I quite imagine the stacking software getting confused with some many overlapping planes. True that most of these artifacts could be removed in post production in Photoshop, but that’s not the point, I want to eliminate or at least minimize them at the taking or stacking stage of the process. The stacking software does give you a range of adjustment options so it looks like it requires processing the same set of shots using lots of different setting until the best result is achieved.

Watch this space…




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