Stuart Ord  

Circuit Board by Stuart Ord

November 2019 - Circuit Board

About the Image(s)

When I first started photography, the proud owner of a Zenit 3M aged about 14, fancy accessories were out of my budget. Then I discovered extension tubes - simple tubes with screw threads, nothing complicated like today. Alas film was expensive so unlimited snapping like we enjoy today was out. However I got some memorable macros, some of the inside of my transistor radio.

This circuit board is part of the back of an electronic Christmas tree by Radio Shack, no more that 6” tall. This of course is a very small part of it. We can see a capacitor, a transistor, two resisters and a couple of wires. And a lot of dust! I did blow on it before pressing the shutter, honestly!

How I did it

This was taken using an automatic focus stack, camera on a tripod, using ambient room light. I selected 14 of these images and stacked them a variety of ways. First I used Helicon Focus Lite. It offers 3 rendering methods - weighted average, depth map, and pyramid. If you select weighted average or depth map, it then offers two more variables - radius and smoothing. Radius can be varied from 1 to 50, and smoothing from 1 to 10. There’s no extra parameters for pyramid.

So I used each one, with radius set to 8 and smoothing to 4 for weighted average and depth map, which wasn’t chosen for any reason, it was just what I’d last used. Then I thought I’d vary these parameters for weighted average, being (1,1), (1,10), (50,1) and (50,10) to give the limits. Comparing all the results, I ranked them from 1 to 5 in terms of clarity, shadow detail and lack of artefacts, and figured that pyramid was the best.

Then I used Affinity. It has nothing to tweak once you have loaded the images, just a “go” button. Comparing that with my best Helicon result, there was little in it - if anything, Affinity had a slight edge.

Maybe there’s a better setting for Helicon - are there any guides as to what to use got the slider parameter values, perhaps for different types of images?

And should I renew my Helicon Focus Lite license which runs out in 35 days??

Olympus OMD-E-M1ii, Olympus 60mm macro lens, f6.3, 1/40 sec, ISO 3200.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
16 comments posted

Janet DiMattia   Janet DiMattia
Hi, Stuart.
This image overwhelms me a bit. I'm not sure what I am looking at. To me it is quite busy. I am drawn to the red area at the lower right and all the letters are distracting also.
However, I really admire the work you went through to take the image. It seems quite complicated and it looks like you have it all under control. Great effort.
  Posted: 11/09/2019 18:26:01

Madhusudhan Srinivasan   Madhusudhan Srinivasan
(Group 67)
A good output for a product photography. Red being an arresting color, as Janet mentioned, viewer's attention is drawn to it mostly imo. I think, may be showing a little more of the motherboard might help to understand the role of this capacitor and also enriches the brand image of Jamicon. Just a thought, although some may not appreciate due to too many components then   Posted: 11/09/2019 20:53:44

Dick States   Dick States
Interesting subject to shoot. I have wanted to do something like this but wasn't sure how to make it work without looking to busy. I may try this this winter, it would be a good winter project.
When I look at the right side of this image on the background green area I see horizontal areas (rows) that are sharp and then horizontal areas that are not sharp. I feel you need to use a smaller lens opening, this will give you more DOF. I use f-8 which most prows recommend. I feel these areas that are not sharp is also from not enough focus overlap. This might be hard to shoot with really two levels to deal with. Not just the parts on the circuit board but at the same time the green circuit board (background). With Helicon Focus I have been using the rendering method B depth map and using a radius of 8 and smoothing of 4. I feel you just have to work with these until you find what works for you. There's a lot of good information in the Helicon Program press Help in the top line. I have enjoyed looking at your image. I find it interesting and feel you did a good job on a complicated subject that's not easy to do.   Posted: 11/12/2019 20:43:39
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
I seem what you mean by the rows, Dick. I hadn't noticed before. It's a stacking artefact, and as you say I could have improved it by reducing my aperture so that each image had a greater DoF, or I could have used more and closer stacked images to that they would stack without including out-of-focus areas. Careless me.
I see now that Helicon is telling me that I have 14 days left, which I presume means it's on a lease and they'll want to be paid again. I'm not very happy with this selling philosophy, I guess I tried it because people extolled it. However generally I've found as good or better results with Affinity, albeit it has fewer controls, and I've not experimented that much with the various settings in Helicon. However I suspect I'll not renew Helicon and work on mastering Affinity better.
  Posted: 11/14/2019 12:04:39
Dick States   Dick States
To my eye these rows are due to not enough over of the focused area. You need about 20% overlap of the focused area. It's really not so much lack of DOF as it is taking more shots for more images in the stack. I don't feel these rows across the background are artefacts.   Posted: 11/14/2019 17:43:29
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
Yes, I'd agree. I just meant artefact in the sense "misleading or confusing alteration.... resulting from flaws in technique or equipment" (This is one of several Wikipedia definitions). My technique wasn't so good. It's great the way other pairs of eyes spot things and I can watch out for this in future. One sadly lacking aspect of Olympus' stacking / bracketing system is they give no guidance on what the increments mean when setting it up to be done automatically. It's a good facility, just lacking any user guidance. I've found some web information where people have done their own experiments to clarify what the settings mean, I should follow those more carefully. Alternatively the tried and tested technique of physically moving the camera within the known or observed DoF is foolproof if a little more time consuming. Or more critical examinatin of the result and repeat until correct! As usual I'm in too big a hurry.   Posted: 11/15/2019 04:31:41

Dick States   Dick States
I would go with around 28 images and go to f-8 to gain more DOF but don't go much more than that as far as f-stop goes. f-8 is close to the sweet spot of most lens to keep diffraction to a minimum.   Posted: 11/14/2019 12:18:18
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
The debate over f-stops is interesting I think. Most tests suggest that 2 stops less than maximum aperture is the start of the best region, and then for a couple more stops before it starts going downhill again. So we'd expect my f2.8 macro lens to come good at f5.6, down to f11, then falling off. Yet we've seen photos by Tom in particular which use f32, smaller than my smallest of f22, which you'd think would be poor due to this and yet they certainly weren't. Maybe that lens is unusual in its design.   Posted: 11/14/2019 12:36:46

Dick States   Dick States
Your right about the f-stops you should use with your lens. Its interesting if you go to and look at the series of shots with a Rodenstock medium format lens and see the difference and that's no shabby lens. The other thing, when you look at a single shot at f-22 and have nothing to compare it with there's no way to know. It may look sharp by itself when it really is not tack sharp. Finally, if I can get a tack sharp macro image at f-22 or f-32 there's no point in in doing stacks no matter what program one is using. I don't have many different programs. I do a lot of macro and have for years. When I got my program to stack images it has been well worth the money. Most of my macro images are stacks now.I would be lost with out it. What a great tool. I am not saying which brand is best, some are better than others.   Posted: 11/14/2019 13:06:00
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
Thanks for the link, Dick! I've not seen Luminous Landscape before. Searching for "Rodenstock" didn't find anything, but I'm going to have fun finding it. And lots of other things, it seems.   Posted: 11/14/2019 16:21:10

Dick States   Dick States
You can do a search under lens diffraction and go down through the sites till you see Luminous Landscape. You can go to Luminous diffraction that worked for me.   Posted: 11/14/2019 17:18:30
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
Yes, "lens diffraction" is a better search term. I didn't discover the Rodenstock pictures, but I did find enough to keep me reading for days!   Posted: 11/15/2019 04:48:02

Sandra Irwin   Sandra Irwin
Interesting photo -- quite a challenge. Great discussion, too. Wish I could understand more of it, but maybe I'll get there some day!   Posted: 11/16/2019 10:00:27

Tom Pickering   Tom Pickering
(Groups 53 & 86 & 95)
Great subject! Like Dick, I've thought about doing something like this but have never gotten around to it. Maybe we should have a round where we all experiment with this type of subject???

As I mentioned on Salvador's image, after suggestions by Dick and some reading here and there, that for stacks it's best to use your lens' sweet spot, which for my macro lens is F8. Helicon doesn't seem to care how many images you throw at it, but you need to be careful that your subject doesn't have too deep an area to cover.

In the case of this image, the red wire certainly pulls focus, but not enough to hold the eye there. For me, your detail is good but the angle of the image feels like it's leaning a bit to the left because of the large cylindrical capacitor(?).   Posted: 11/21/2019 12:07:52
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
(Groups 64 & 95)
Your comment on slant is correct, Tom, I think. I was taught "Keep your verticals, vertical" and if you look at the side of the flat capacitor near the top and indeed the wires going into the PCB, they are leaning to the left so I failed there. The cylindrical capacitor is seen on a slant so is relatively OK.

My problem [well one of them anyway ;-) ] is that I don't like seeking out bugs and the like, so I'm usually looking for really small interesting subjects. This one always seemed a natural one to me, and this old one (below) taken about 1968 (when I was mid teens) appealed to me because it reminded me of a chemical plant, and I went on to become a chemical engineer. Probably Orwo or Ferrania slide film, Zenit 3M, 50mm extension tube, 58mm Helios lens, no idea of the settings or lighting, but I see highlights so maybe my first electronic flash on an extension lead, an unadjustable one made by a Japanese company whose name I forget (Starblitz? Sunagor??) It might be better than my new photo! (Pity about the black aerial in the foreground)   Posted: 11/22/2019 03:33:42
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Salvador Atance   Salvador Atance
Hi Stuart, really correcting the leaning at the post process, we loose a lot of the picture as can be seen below.
I will try next month also some picture about electronics. It's a very familiar world for me.
Regarding the Helicon Software like you I was required to renew my anual subscription and decided to upgrade from Helicon Focus Pro-1 to Pro Unlimited. It's expensive but never will have to pay again.

  Posted: 11/27/2019 04:39:20
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