Stuart Ord  

Fan Shell by Stuart Ord

May 2022 - Fan Shell

About the Image(s)

“Fan shell”
Continuing with my shell photos. This time I’ve chosen a complementary colour background (it was a leaf) and subjected it to a couple of doses of Gaussian blur before pasting my shell onto it.
Main image: Canon EOS M50ii, Canon 100mm macro USM, manual exposure 1/25sec at f5.6, ISO 100, Adaptalux lights, magnification 1x, a stack of 8 RAW files, stepped by Helicon Remote, stacked in Helicon Focus to DNG.
Background image: Olympus M1ii, Olympus 14-150mm lens as 22mm, 1/50 sec at f4.5, ISO 200, natural outdoor light.
Images combined in Affinity Photo.

11 comments posted

Keith Au   Keith Au
Hi Stuart,
I love the green contrast background.

Btw, as you have stacked 8 raw images to make this final one.. I just am wondering how did you spread the focus-points on the shell? Horizontally over 8 sections?

I love to try focus stacking to achieve a completely focused macro image. Hope you don't mind sharing your experience.

Thanks in advance.   Posted: 05/16/2022 18:07:20
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
The focus points are increments towards the subject. You start with the subject framed and focussed on the closest point. You do this by trial and error. Then, after taking the first frame, you move the camera forwards without altering the framing, and then take the second frame. Then repeat until you have taken the final frame focussed on the rear-most point that you want to be in focus.

Generally, moving the camera has to be mechanised in some way. A focus rail on a tripod is the first way to try. There are mmore sophisticated methods including computer-conrolled focus rails, but that's seriously expensive! Manual operation of a focus rail works fine.

How much do you move the camera between shots? You can do this by calculation, but the most practical way is by eye. A focus aid like focus highlighting by your camera (if it has the facility) are adequate. Just leave a good overlap between frames so as not to get gaps in the sharp areas in the stack.

In a similar way you can leave the camera fixed on the tripod, and manually adjust the focus for each frame. That works, but most macro photographers find using a focus rail is easier. This technique is used for doing focus stack for non-macor subjects, eg landscapes with some very close foreground objects that you want to be sharp.

However in this case I used software to control the camera focus, and it automates that second method. This is called Helicon Remote. The camera is connected to the computer and controlled by the computer. In the software you can focu the lens up and down and select the closest and furthest focus points. The software knows the camera settings (focus distance, aperture, etc) and so can calculate the largest permitted focus step size. It then takes all the images from closest to furthest with all the necessary intermediate steps. If you use the stacking software Helicon Focus, the software loads the images into Helicon Focus automatically, where you can produce the stack with a few clicks of the mouse. It's very good! Alas it only works for Canon and Nikon cameras.

I have explained a number of procedures in this forum, but before you joined us! I need to collect them together and perhaps post it in the group's bulletin board. When I get the time!! But there are lots of explanations on the web - just search for focus stacking, focus merging, focus bracketting, etc.

  Posted: 05/17/2022 17:11:37
Keith Au   Keith Au
Hi Stuart,
Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. Really appreciate it.
Lately I have watched some photography materials explaining how we can stack images in PS. Basically we can shoot multiple images over a period of time or different focus points and the SW can stack them into a perfect resulting image. It is similar to your second method. I was about to try it out.
But there was no stress on systematically planning the focus points within the frame among the shots. Your tips help me a lot. I'll also search for focus bracketing to learn more.
Thanks again.   Posted: 05/17/2022 22:43:08
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
You're welcome, Keith.

Indeed, I believe Photoshop can do the focus merge from the multiple images. However if there's too much lateral movement between frames, then merging software can fail (a bit like on other similar tasks, eg panorama merging).

Affinity Photo can certainly merge focus stacks, but there's not much control over it, whereas specialist software like Helicon Focus and Xerene Stacker can do a better job. But for first steps, stick with PS, no need to spend more money on specialist programs.

It's worth mentioning also that the software usually expects the files to be merged to be in distance order, from closest to furthest away. A random selection of images taken at different distances is also likely to fail.   Posted: 05/18/2022 08:20:32
Keith Au   Keith Au
Got it. Thanks, Stuart.   Posted: 05/18/2022 09:17:41

Pat Glenn   Pat Glenn
what a great/lovely subject. I love the colors and texture, fanning of the shell, imperfections of the shell, love the green background off to right - it is a good match for the pink - it is a significant swatch of green but not enough to dominate - the shell still dominates the scene for me - the green lines flow differently than the fanning of the shell which I think looks good.   Posted: 05/16/2022 23:19:11
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
Thanks, Pat. I'm no artist so positive feedback on colours that I have chosen is encouraging.   Posted: 05/17/2022 16:46:42

Carol Sheppard   Carol Sheppard
The colors are stunning in the shell and they are nicely set off by the softer green background. Honestly I didn't understand the lengthy discussion on focus stacking because your shell looks fine to me! Was there a problem I'm not seeing? Compositionally, I feel the shell looms rather large and "in my face" compared to the background. There's a softening process necessary when adding in a background or a texture. Make a new shell layer and apply your Gaussian Blur there. Then your sharp shell image goes above that. Paint on on a very low opacity around the edges of your main subject to create a more natural blend.   Posted: 05/18/2022 13:42:54
Tom Pickering   Tom Pickering
Stuart was explaining to Keith the methods for taking the images and then merging them.   Posted: 05/24/2022 16:34:06

Tom Pickering   Tom Pickering
Excellent stack, Stuart! Detail where it should be and softness in the background - end result is your subject popped successfully. The colors are attractive and make for interesting bands.

My only suggestion would be to clean up the small hair (?) just left of center, which tends to pull focus a bit.   Posted: 05/24/2022 16:37:05
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
Thanks, Tom.

Eagle eyes! It's not a hair, actually. I hadn't noticed it, but I've just got the shell out of the box and found it's part of the shell's surface. Can only see it with a decent magnifier!   Posted: 05/25/2022 03:04:57


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