I had an idea for a photo on the disc golf course. I knew the idea would involve a bit of work to make one final photograph, and that is why it appealed to me. The idea was to have a disc in the extreme foreground with the basket in the far background and taken with a zoom to keep the basket from shrinking too much in the background. When I got to the park in the morning the sun was out and I found a nice place to attempt the photo, but then a big cloud moved over the sun. Below is my final image.
The above image is the focus-stack of 10 images combined in Photoshop. I shot this with the tripod as close to the ground as possible and used a focal length of 120mm and aperture of f/8. At 120mm the basket in the backgound is large and quite visible in the photo. I used f/8 to get reasonably good focus-depth with each photo without letting the shutter speed get too slow.
Why Focus Stacking?
If you took a single photo with on object in the extreme foreground, the depth of field would be so shallow that the background would be blurred out. You may want this effect in some instances, but in this instance I wanted the background in focus as well. Below is my closest focused image.
As you can see, the basket in the background is all blurred because of the shallow focus depth. Below is my tenth photo with the far background in focus.
You can see now that the disc on the grass in the foreground is blurred out.
To solve this problem, I took a sequence of 10 photos at different focal points and tried to get enough things in focus. I then had to combine them all in Photoshop.
The Work Flow
The processing workflow for me was a bit tedious and went as follows:
- import raw images into Lightroom (a few seconds)
- select all the images that I want to focus stack
- right-click, select edit >> open as layers in Photoshop
- wait a few minutes for the images to open as layers in Photoshop
- select all of the layers and go to the Edit menu and select Auto-Align Layers. I use the default options. This takes a few minutes.
- when this is done, go to the edit menu and select Auto-Blend Layers, then stack (not panorama). This takes a few more minutes.
- when this is done, create a merged image and save it.
- a few minutes later, it should show up in Lightroom and you can finish editing.
What I have learned is that you need to leave yourself a good amount of space for cropping. This is for two reasons.
- When you change focus, the focal length changes ever so slightly and Photoshop has to align the images and you end up with dead space around the edges.
- When Photoshop blends the images, it doesn’t do a very good job around the edges and it is nice to be able to crop that out.
See the image below.
If you look at the edges you can see that it is a blurred mess. I cropped the final image out of the middle to avoid this.
In the final image, there are a few smudgy areas where the focus-stacking didn’t work out perfectly. It is mostly in the grass and you would have to search to find them. If I was a Photoshop master wizard, perhaps I could go manually adjust the masks, but it was mainly a fun experiment. I think it would be a neat photo idea if you were trying to promote the disc golf course.
I also took a series of photos in vertical orientation but I didn’t like the final product as much.
Maybe next time I will try it with an even longer lens.
This was taken at the basket for the 18th hole, which is just about the most difficult on the course. I did make a truly amazing throw on this once, but it was unfortunately preceded by about 6 truly horrendous throws so it didn’t do much for my score. Thanks for reading.