Focus Stacking

Following on from my previous post about InfraRed Photography, another of my favourite photography techniques is focus stacking. This is something that I was taught by wildlife and landscape photographer Peter Orr during my time shadowing him on photography shoots. The main use of this technique is to gain extra depth of field to get three dimensional shots. This focus stacking method is taken from Heather Angel, a nature photographer who specialises in Macro photography.


In order to create a focus stacking photograph, you need a couple of things:

  • Manual focus to be selected on your camera
  • A static subject
  • Constant lighting
  • Focus stacking macro rail
  • Helicon Focus software
  • Backdrop – velvet works best as it provides a matt background with no light reflected

Firstly, you set your camera up on a focus rail- one that moves forwards and backwards. You position the camera as far back on the focus rail as possible, and manually focus on the part of the object closest to the camera lens. This technique works best for anything that is exceptionally three-dimensional, which is why flowers work so well with their many petals. You then take your first photograph, and move the camera on the focus rail at equal intervals (keeping the camera on manual focus) until the camera has reached the front of the rail. The intervals can be whatever you feel best, just make sure each interval is the same. You then also need to quickly check back through your photographs and check the flower has focus from the very beginning to end. After this, you then import the images into a programme such as Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker. Et voila! Here you have your focus stacking images.

Infrared Photography

One of my favourite things to do is experiment with different photography techniques, and one of my favourite experiments to date is using an infrared camera. A couple of years ago, I was at a wedding and the photographer handed me a small point-and-shoot, telling me to go and try it out. One thing he didn’t tell me was that it had been modified to allow the sensor to receive infrared rays. Colour, as we see it, is only a small part of the light spectrum. Although some light rays can’t be seen with a naked eye (Ultraviolet and Infrared), they can be picked up by the sensor in the camera. For conventional photography manufacturers equip their sensors with UV and infrared filters, to protect against them. When these filters are removed, it provides interesting effects for the photographs.

Infrared images are easily recognised by their unusual mixture of colour and seemingly monochrome imagery. Objects respond differently to infrared light than they do to visible wavelengths: plants and trees reflect far more, making them appear to glow, while water and skies reflect very little. The images below are my outcomes from this, and I absolutely love the effect that the infrared gives. It adds an eerie feel to the photographs, which I think is emphasised further by the old buildings and sparse gardens.

Definitely one of my favourite experiments to date, and I always reflect back on these when in need of some wintery inspiration. Hope you’ve enjoyed!

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Shooting Shadows

Overpass, Kat Ward. © Kat Ward 2015

One of my passions within the creative field will always surround photography. Since the first time I began studying it, I loved it. Not only to capture incredible moments permanently, but to experiment. I love working with film cameras, with the outcome of your work being unknown until you develop it. One of my favourite series of photographs I produced were inspired by Kat Ward, and English experimental photographer who specialises in lomography and film work. In a project looking at representing the past and creating aged photographs, I took inspiration from Ward’s photo destruction methods. These methods involved shooting a full roll of film, developing them, and then ruining the processed film using various methods. To view the outcomes I then had to reprocess and develop photographs.

I firstly tried to use the same method as Ward does by using a weak bleach solution (showed below in her image titled Overpass), but this epically failed and after just five minutes I had completely dissolved any hints of a photograph to result in a purely see-through strip of film.

The second method I tried was soaking the developed film in tea solution for about 24 hours. After re-processing this ruined film, the results for this experiment were subtle yet beautiful. The tea emphasised an aged effect within the photographs, highlighting the warm hues and exaggerating the grain. I especially love the photograph with the white blossom as the depth of field (how the focus in limited to the foreground to all you non-photographers out there) in this photograph emphasises the grain.

The next method that I tried was to soak the developed film in a strong salt and vinegar solution overnight (12 hours) and below were the outcomes! The salt added a strange texture to the photographs, adding crystal effects where the salt particles settled. I love the effect that this “damaging” method created, and feel it truly emphasises the crisp natural feel.

My final and favourite method that I experimented with was with blue food dye. I soaked the film overnight (approx. 12 hours) and after reprocessing, my photographs were left with this amazing effect. Due to colours being inverted in the developing process, the blue dye switched to be red. This creates a fire-like effect on these photographs. I absolutely love this effect, and must be one of my favourites from my film “destruction”.

So the question really is that should I have classed this project as the “destruction” of film? Aside from my fail using bleach, the results from the experiments have proved to be far more beautiful than destroyed. They don’t destruct from nature’s beauty, I believe they add to it. And on that note, I shall leave you with a quote…