Darkroomers Workshop in Focus Stacking

A few days ago (or so it seems) I was touring some beautiful and new-to-me countryside with a great tour guide and helper for extricating the vehicle from a malevolent snow drift.  Yesterday (Saturday Apr 8) I was inside, at the Darkroomers’ meeting hall in Balboa Park to deliver a workshop/seminar on the process known as “Focus Stacking.” 

As I’m sure most of you know, this is a technique used to stack and blend frames taken at various points of focus in order to obtain a final image with a greater depth of field than possible with a single exposure taken at the lens’ aperture “sweet spot.”

This is not a new technique; I first saw it used for a landscape shot in a magazine column devoted to “Thinking Digitally” years ago where the author manually blended multiple exposures of several gazillion birds at New Mexico’s Bosque Del Apache wetlands.  Doing it manually was an exercise in extreme masochism but now applications can make short work of it, assuming the photographer has done their part in the capture phase.

I was surprised to be asked to talk on this since I assumed every photographer in the galaxy knew how to do it but it seems there is some interesting misinformation floating about… and not just here but in a number of areas of digital photography as well.  The ‘clue’ is when it doesn’t work, especially when either the images do not align properly or when sections of the subject from the front to the back of the desired depth of field plane turn out to be soft or apparently out of focus.

In the seminar I tried to cover most of the issue areas at least as I’ve experienced with several years of giving a focus stacking assignment to my classes at City.

seminar 04

Some old guy talking about Focus Stacking to the Darkroomers Photo Club in San Diego.  OR… he might be directing a hip-hop opera or practicing for a role as a T-Rex.  Photo (c) Jeff Booher, used with permission.

The Program director, Jeff Booher was kind enough to not only ask me to come do the presentation but also was able to take some photos during the event.  Although he captured some frames of some really old guy who appeared to be talking to the group (which could not have been me since when I see myself in the mirror each day I’m a LOT younger), it does give a sense of the group size and facility.

seminar 02

Participants in the Focus Stacking Workshop.  Photo (c) Jeff Booher, used with permission.

It was fun to be able to do a “class” with only a few participants (10) compared to a classroom full of students (20-30) because it allowed time to really interface with individual participants both during the shooting phase and also in the editing/post production phase of the process.

seminar 06

The old guy in the first picture seems to be amazed (as is the participant) that the process actually worked… or he might have stabbed himself in a delicate place with the car keys in his pocket but is trying, with marginal success, to stifle the scream…  Photo (c) Jeff Booher, used with Permission.

If you live in the San Diego area, and are looking for some fellow photographers in a good group dedicated to improving their work, The Darkroomers is a really good place to start.  You can come to a meeting and ask for Jeff Booher . They meet the 1st, 3rd and 5th wednesdays at 7:30pm at the photo arts building (next to the entrance to Spanish Village) in Balboa Park.  There is a $45 membership fee and they fill out a membership application and that’s pretty much it.

Next week I’ll be giving the Video for Still Shooters workshop for George’s Camera.  You can check out the page for that workshop under the banner at the top of the page.  I think there are still a few seats left.  Hopefully the old guy will stay home.



About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Darkroomers Workshop in Focus Stacking

  1. Jeffrey Forrest says:

    I estimate by the weathering and lithology that the subject in reference is from the late Jurassic, … maybe early Cretaceous.

    Just say’n.

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