Testing the Limits

While editing some older images, I found a couple of images captured from the kayak, of a small frog “hiding” in a lily pad. Reviewing the image data, I realized these images were made by hand-holding the camera/macro lens combo. I used a very small aperture to throw the background out-of-focus. This also caused a very shallow depth of field. One of the photos rendered the frog’s eyes in sharp focus:

Small frog hiding in lily pad

The other photo caused the eyes to be a bit out-of-focus, but the frog’s nose was crisp:

Small frog hiding in lily pad


Normally, this is a good scenario for employing focus-stacking, a technique where multiple images (each shot at a different plane of sharp focus) are combined, creating an image with a greater depth of field for a portion of the image … but still retaining an out-of-focus background. The problem here, though, is that I was hand-holding while creating both images. Thus, the two images were not “overlaid”. How would focus-stacking work with these images? I decided to export both images to my focus-stacking software, “Helicon Focus”, and give it a go. Here is the result I got:

Frog hiding in Lily Pad (Focus Stacked)

I like this image much better than either of the two previous images. There is still a small depth of field, but both the nose and eyes are in sharp focus. From lessons like this, I always try not to trash any image that is “close, but not what I wanted”. In some cases, you can employ a special technique to obtain the desired result.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 1D Mark 2 body
  • Canon EF 180mm, f/3.5 macro lens
  • Handheld from a kayak
  • ISO 400
  • Aperture f/3.5
  • Shutter 1/640 sec.



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Posted in 2009, 2015, Blog, focus stacking, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Photography from a kayak, Photography Tips, Reptiles and Amphibians
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