Howdy all, welcome to my blog. In response to a few requests my first entry will describe the making of the photograph titled Belle Femme.
In my experience the best photos are the ones whereby I have a vision in mind before I create the image. That is not to say that all my favorite shots were envisioned ahead of time, I have chanced upon subjects and captured keepers. My vision for Belle Femme was one of a very large framed print that would have incredible detail even when viewed close up. My subject was a local wildflower called the blue flag, iris versicolor. Wildflowers interest me far more than cultivated varieties and this flower is one of my favorites.
To make the image I had to overcome two limitations of my camera, resolution and depth of field. The native resolution of my camera was pretty good at 16 megapixels but to make a print 30 inches high as sharp as I wanted would require more. To create an image of more than 16 megapixels with my camera required a technique called stitching.
The next camera limitation, depth of field, needs a little explaining. My subject was relatively small, about 2 inches wide. When photographing subjects this small the area that is actually in focus is very shallow. The area behind and ahead of the focus plane are blurred. I employed a technique called focus blending in order to render the entire flower in focus.
This is how it was done. To employ the techniques that I needed required multiple photos of the flower and a very calm controlled environment. I have made some photos by going into the field in the calm hours of early morning but in this case I needed the atmosphere of my studio. My mother happened to have some of the flowers in her yard. The night before the planned shoot I picked a plant with two unopened blossoms. The following morning in my studio I had a beautiful blossom open, and because it was inside all night the flower was undamaged and clean.
My next challenge was to come up with a pleasing lighting arrangement. I decided to use a technique called cross polarization. Cross polarization reduces bright reflections on the flower and reveals the color and fine details better.
For my first series of photos I framed just the upper part of the flower.
The first photo was focused on the nearest part of the flower. Subsequent photos were focused just a little further away in small steps.
When my focus point reached the base of the first petal I cut it off so that it would not interfere when defocused on the furthest petal.
After the first series of photos were complete I angled the camera down and created the next series, clipping petals as I went.
It required 45 minutes and 272 photos to cover the entire photo in four separate series. After that the project became much less fun. I had to manually rescale and blend each of the photos into one finished photo.
Here is a bit more detail on how the blending took place. The first photo that I opened was focused on the part of the petal nearest to the camera. The next photo opened was focused just a tiny bit further away. I would then take the second image and drag it on top of the first image (I used Photoshop for the project). The second image had slightly less magnification than the first, since it was focused further away, and needed to be upscaled slightly to match the size of the first image. I then upscaled just the second image using the transform image, image scale function to about 100.2%. The upscaled image then needed to be positioned exactly over the first image. Next I chose the eraser tool. I adjusted the brush to a medium hardness and a size of about 30 pixels. I then carefully erased the blurred areas that were just adjacent to the sharp areas on the top image to reveal the in focus areas on the bottom image. This procedure was repeated for every image until the entire series was in focus. Each image required a different amount of scaling and it was trial and error until the right size was found.
For the next series of images the framing of the flower was lower on the plant. These images were blended with the first series of images, so in effect from here on the images are focus blended and stitched at the same time.
The completed photo is 61 megapixels in size and 16 bit. It took me 5 months and over 50 hours to complete the project. Most nights I didn’t work on it since I found that I needed to be in the right state of mind and alert to work without mistakes. In the end I used only 151 of the original 272 images. Here is a 100% crop from the photo. The white spots in the upper left are pollen grains.
After putting that much effort into the photograph I was reluctant to show it to anyone. I was afraid the photo would get just a ho hum reception and I would feel that the effort may have been wasted. I think the photo was worth the effort and I encourage anyone about to undertake such a project to pick your subject well so that the effort is fully appreciated.