We had the pleasure of listening to Oliver Wright speak at the Birdfair in Rutland this week. It would be hard to imagine anyone more helpful than Oliver and he was quite happy to extend his talk into a demonstration afterwards.
I think we were all most interested in focus-stacking, and Oliver has become a foremost exponent of this technique, achieving some astonishing results which can be seen on his website.
He used the 65mm Canon 5:1 macro lens in some of his shots. This remarkable lens, unique in the macro field, changes length alarmingly as you change the magnification. There is no focussing, you set the magnification and then move the camera to focus. The depth of field wide open and at full magnification is a tiny fraction of a millimetre, but, thanks to stacking and his practised technique, Oliver can get a high success rate. Eschewing a tripod or any mechanical support, which are too inflexible with moving quarry, Oliver supports the lens with his finger at the end of the barrel. When he is near enough to the closest focus point he fires off frames in continuous mode whilst gently pushing the lens against his resting finger. That tiny movement, as the flesh resists movement, is enough to cover the field required. He then processes the shots in Lightroom (do just one in the series then copy the adjustments to all shots) then he processes the stack, usually in Ps. With the 5DS – the camera with no anti-aliasing filter and 50MB images, you can imagine the time this takes the computer and how big the finished assembly can be – 120GB was mentioned – obviously all this can be compressed into a normal sized jpeg in the end. Oliver does a lot of deleting!
There is now a blog on his website in which Oliver is going to discuss focus stacking specifically.