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Thread: Spider focusing quandry

  1. #1

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    Spider focusing quandry

    I was dared to post some scary spider close ups, but thought I would start off with some gentler images then perhaps move on to showing some of the fiercer 'minature monsters' later.

    This is actually a Harvestman not a spider, not totally certain of exact ID yet.

    The problem I faced, which is quite common amongst macro nature shots, is that the subject was sitting on a white thistle head which made exposure a bit tricky (I didn't want to blow the highlights) and depth of field was too shallow. Eventually I spot metered the thistle and took a few shots with various amounts of compensation.

    Canon 40D with Sigma 180mm macro lens. I thought that 1/250 F11 & ISO 800 was the best combination. DoF is still too shallow at F11 to get all the harvestman's legs (he is missing one) and the thistle head in clear focus. I used manual focus, which is prefered by most insect macro men, and tried to focus on the creature's 'head'.

    I didn't want to increase aperture and lower shutter speed because of camera shake worries. I was half way up a steep bank, and gravity was gradually having an effect, while attempting to hold a very unsteady tripod with different leg lengths.

    Anyway, this is the best of my attempts but I wondered if anybody has any tips for increasing depth of field under difficult circumstances. I have thought about taking 2 identical images, one slightly front focused and one slightly to the rear then combining them. But it does sound like a lot of work and I'm not sure if I could get the result to look natural.

    So any suggestions?
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  2. #2
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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    looks as if you are doing well on a very difficult subject and have considered several choices wisely. I am not a macro man, I just use a close-up ring on the front of a tele lens and encounter similar problems.

    My experience with another ambition, namely good bird flight pics, is to keep pics one is not satisfied with in the hope that they will be superceded in due course with better ones as a result of more fortunate conditions and/or more patience - and mostly they are

    PS do scare us rigid Geoff!

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    You're talking of focus stacking and the secret to a good result is to first take some good shots and combine them as subtlely as you can. Adjustment of the opacity of every single layer is also important. I've only ever tried it once and it is indeed very effective (I was astonished) but I try to get it right in camera. Macro is something I'm looking forward to (when the Mrs releases the funds!) but until then I'm snookered.

    BTW. I really want to see some really scary spiders and I don't think I'm on my own, go on we wanna see big boggly eyes!
    Last edited by The Blue Boy; 26th January 2009 at 09:18 PM. Reason: Forgot the BTW

  4. #4

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    OK, I will have a look through my files and find some more interesting insect species.

    I have used a bit of layer stacking and combination of semi masked layers with a variety of merge modes for landscape work but haven't tried it yet on macro images, something else to consider.

    The euphemism 'combine with photoshop' is often advised on other forums but it tends to remind me of those workshop manuals which said things like 'drift back bearing and remove shaft'. And you knew full well that it meant struggling with a warming torch and large hammer; and loosing a bit of knuckle skin.

    Incidentally, before getting a proper macro lens, I had reasonable macro success with my 70-300 plus a 25mm extension tube. I still carry it around with that lens when I'm on a 'general purpose' walkabout.

    ps. I've got a confirmed ID on this creature now - Phalangium opilio but probably a sub-adult which is what confused me.

  5. #5

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Hi

    There is some relatively inexpensive software called Helicon Focus you might like to consider.

    The idea is that you take many shots whilst varying the manual focus very gradually so that each 'salami slice' of the object you are photographing is in focus on at least one of the images. Typically you might take 10 - 20 separate shots, though there is no practical limit. Helicon Focus then combines these images to produce a single composite image that is sharp from front to rear.

    Of course the trick is to persuade the spider to stay still!

    The program is not perfect, but under the right conditions, fantastic images can be secured. It is applicable to micro, macro and landscape photography.The program will accept raw images, TIFFS and JPGs and will output a large TIFF image. The link is:

    http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html

    You can achieve the same image using a multitude of layers in Photoshop, lots of brush-skill to mask out large areas on each layer, and hours of idle time to fill. In comparison, Helicon Focus will do the same job in 20-30 seconds, and make corrections for differing image sizes for each salami slice.

    Have a look at the site, download a trial to 'play with' and enjoy a whole different perspective to macro photography.

    I would be interested to hear other people's views of this software.

    Regards to all.

    Tony

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Bennett View Post
    I would be interested to hear other people's views of this software.
    I've used Helicon Focus - and would echo all that you've said about it. Well worth giving it a try - and thanks Tony for your input on this.

    On a side note, I've made quite a few suggestions to Canon for firmware improvements - one is what I'll call "focus bracketing" - it would be great to be able to program the camera to take a pre-determined number of shots whilst varying the focus between 2 set amounts. The frustraiting thing is that all the basic functionality is already there - it just needs firmware to drive it.

  7. #7

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Colin

    A workaround is to 'trial' focus on the far limit, then 'trial' focus on the near limit whilst using live screen or the viewfinder, memorise the lens focus ring positions, set the camera on motor drive and using a remote release cable operate the camera whilst slowly zooming between the focus ring memorised positions. If your camera can motor drive 5 frames per second, a 3-second burst will provide a good starting point of 15 frames.

    Two major drawbacks of multi-focus level techniques are the obvious ones of camera noise and subject movement (by wind or fear!). So the technique particularly lends itself to static still life subjects.

    Enjoy.

    Tony

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for that.

    I don't do any true macro work - my use for Helicon Focus was to try and achieve extreme depth of field in some landscape shots, with objects both very close and very far away needing to be in focus.

    So when are we going to see some of your work eh?

  9. #9

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    I did have a look at Helicon Focus but 75 for the basic programme produced a sharp intake of breath. Have now found a free version called Combine ZP which I have downloaded and printed out the instructions. Will give it a trial soon when, and if, I have read the instructions and begin to understand them.

  10. #10
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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    If it's any help I find layer masks in photoshop easy enough and not too time consuming when you use just a handful of images that are different in focus (but not drastically) and you use a low opacity soft black brush on the mask. The result is natural enough too. Same as using many images with subtle difference and pixel perfect masking off and a higher opacity brush and more precision but much quicker. Only problem ith the quick way is you have to pay a bit more attention around the edges to avoid bleeding from out of focus bits.

    Also if you use an extra very out of focus image for the background alone you can blitz it something wicked. I can do it so it must be easy , my point and shoot doesn't produce nice shallow dof so I have to fake it in post processing this way. Shouldn't take very long to get a good result, but if you're working on a high volume of images then automation helps so unsure if this is helpful to you.

    I look forward to seeing some of the more unpleasant looking creatures, although that little guy is hardly an attractive beastie.

  11. #11

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    I have started putting some of the 'wee beasties' onto PBase http://www.pbase.com/crustacean/mini...ers__july_2008

    Not sure if that will work - my success rate of creating links isn't that good.

    So far, I have uploaded a selection of species from July, August & September. In the October 'edition' there will be some images of Spider Hunting Wasps, Ichneumon Wasps and other weirdos.

    And then I will have to start on some of the many images from my garden - some real nasties there.

    ps. I have taken a few snaps of flowers to try the various methods of combination. When I stop 'wasting my time' here and get on with some editing I will see what happens.

  12. #12
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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Geoff, great stuff there. My personal favorite has to be Sympetrum striolatum, obviously.

    Hah! Thank the Lord for Copy and Paste!

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Geoff, since you are now the official resident bugman (!) I would ask that you identify the following taken in southern India (Kerala) a number of years ago.

    Cheers in advance!

    Spider focusing quandry

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Orange Ladybirds What kind of show are you running here! As amusing as the ladybird pic was to my inferior and childish mind Strangalia maculata is probably my favourite.

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    The mating Orange Ladybirds were a real stroke of luck. Not exactly rare but not common either. The original reason for me being in that area is that I had a contract to transport, by small boat, a workman who was employed in the isolated nearby house. As I was 'collecting' him one afternoon he looked down and said 'What is that'. Until then I hadn't seen them.

    The Harvestman Mitopus morio was a bit unique as this is a bit too far south but they appear to be surviving in the cool damp conditions of the wood. The Ichneumon Wasp scratching it's back is one of my favourites.

    But so far, the wildlife photo which I think is the best is actually in my Salcombe Fish Quay Gallery and shows a Little Egret with his neck totally inside a crab store box while he catches small grey mullet.

    Not sure if the link will show, it is the first time I have tried to link from that site.

    http://www.pbase.com/crustacean/image/109162252
    Last edited by Geoff F; 15th February 2009 at 07:39 PM. Reason: Adding link

  16. #16

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    The link links correctly but the image doesn't show until the link address is selected. I think I will have to think it out again!

    Time to read the instructions again!

  17. #17
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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Did you post it inline? http://i.pbase.com/o6/49/898249/1/10...instorebox.jpg is the location, just put that address between [IMG]put image url here [/IMG] tags

    Note to colin or sean, you might wanna delete this post once Geoff has relevant pic location to post image inline to keep thread tidy since it won't add anything relevant to the thread after that.
    Last edited by Davey; 15th February 2009 at 08:11 PM.

  18. #18
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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Guess long neck comes in handy there! Thing I wondered is when he caught his meal how does it get its head out, or did it eat it before pulling out?

    As for link I checked and it works and displays fine but I won't post as will get confusing if displays in my post. Colin made an easy guide to posting images inline http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/forums/thread785.htm .

    You just put the image location (see the guide for how to find it, it varies from browser to browser) between the [IMG] tags (most who are familiar with html tags just type them) or click the add picture button Spider focusing quandry and paste the image url into that.

    The pic insert button is prob easiest way, it's just not all forums have easy auto tag buttons like there are here so many people are used to inserting images, hyper links or changing text bold or colour by manually typing the tags. When you post links without the IMG tag I presume it assumes it's a web page link rather than image so automatically puts [URL] tags on instead.

  19. #19

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Think I am still missing something here. If I right click a photo in PBase then click Open I get a different address. But I'm not sure which is the insert icon from the toolbar above.

    However I'll have a go with another image. If this works it will show an exhausted migrating Meadow Pipit which came aboard my fishing boat for a free ride to the harbour.

    http://i.pbase.com/o6/49/898249/1/10...ipitonboat.jpg

  20. #20

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    Re: Spider focusing quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    Think I am still missing something here. If I right click a photo in PBase then click Open I get a different address. But I'm not sure which is the insert icon from the toolbar above.

    However I'll have a go with another image. If this works it will show an exhausted migrating Meadow Pipit which came aboard my fishing boat for a free ride to the harbour.

    http://i.pbase.com/o6/49/898249/1/10...ipitonboat.jpg
    Hi Geoff,

    Just jumping in quickly here between jobs (haven't read previous posts yet).

    Inline posting from pbase is a bit different - you need to display the image then click EDIT IMAGE and they you'll see the URL in the top right hand corner. It'll end in xxxmedium.jpg - but you can edit it to xxxlarge.jpg or xxxoriginal.jpg when you post it into the Insert Picture dialog box.

    The Insert picture icon is the one with the brown frame around it - you can't miss it because the tool tip says "Insert Image" when you hover over it

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