Some video-stacked flowers

Images of undisturbed subjects in their natural environment. All subject types.

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gardenersassistant
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 5:21 am
Location: North Somerset, England

Some video-stacked flowers

Post by gardenersassistant »

These used one of my two favourite methods for flower close-ups, focus stacking JPEGs extracted from hand-held videos captured using Panasonic's post focus video function. The first two used 4K videos with a Panasonic G80, the others used 6K videos with a Panasonic G9, both cameras using an Olympus 60mm macro. All were captured in our garden, except the last one, which was captured in a local public garden. All used natural light and natural backgrounds.

Helicon Focus was used to extract JPEGs from the videos and align them, select the ones to stack (from 18 to 75 were used), stack them and retouch the stacks, which for the fifth of these involved retouching a stack from another stack which used a different stacking method. Lightroom was used for tonality adjustments and cropping, and the second had a round trip from Lightroom to Photoshop for a minor adjustment (probably minor cloning that was too difficult to do in Lightroom, or possibly background stretching).

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1579 8 2018_07_25 P1490485 46f B8,4 LR 1300h AIS by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1579 7 2018_07_25 P1490430 29f C4-Edit LR 1300h AIS by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1596 16 2020_01_08 P1122494 25f C4 LR 1300h-DNAI by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1457 05 2019_03_11 P1015812 G9+60 HHPFS32f F2.8 1-500 ISO400 EV-1 A29,2+innerC1 LR 1300h-sharpen by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1596 03 2020_01_08 P1122185 75f B26,4+innerC4 LR 1300h-DNAI by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1459 08 2019_02_17 P1014688 G9+60 HHPFS20f F2.8 1-3200 ISO400 EV-1.3 C1 LR 1300h-sharpen by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1449 1448 01 2019_02_28 P1015536 G9+60 HHPFS35f F2.8 1-200 ISO200 EV-1.3 B8,2+iv3 LR 1300h-sharpen 0.5,0.1,0 by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

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1453 7 2019_02_22 P1015101 G9+60 HHPFS18f F2.8 1-1000 ISO100 EV-2 C2-Edit LR 1300h-sharpen by gardenersassistant, on Flickr
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

MarkSturtevant
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Post by MarkSturtevant »

Beautiful! I really like your method for building a focus stack.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

gardenersassistant
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Post by gardenersassistant »

MarkSturtevant wrote:Beautiful! I really like your method for building a focus stack.
Thanks.

EDIT: On reflection, I think perhaps I misunderstood your comment about method. Well, hopefully what follows is of some interest anyway.

For my purposes and preferences the method has several advantages over focus bracketing. I have not found the disadvantages particularly (or at all) troublesome.

First the advantages.

It is very quick and easy to do, both in terms of setup and in terms of execution.

Setup

Setup involves setting the aperture, ISO and shutter speed in the usual way (the only constraint being that the shutter speed must be at least 1/30 sec). For a while I have been using f/2.8 the whole time, in aperture priority mode, and the G9 has a nice auto ISO implementation that I have set up so that it uses base ISO unless the shutter speed needs to be below 1/80 sec, at which point it starts raising the ISO, and then slows the shutter speed if the ISO would need to go above 3200. With a constant f/2.8 that means I don't have to do anything by way of arranging these three settings.

As I am essentially using JPEG, the one thing I do do in preparation is to set the camera white balance. I do this for every scene, even in unchanging light conditions. I have learnt that deciding when I need to reset the white balance doesn't work - I forget too often when it does matter, so I have simply got into the habit of doing it every time. The G9 makes this very easy to do by way of customisable button placement. I use a very conveniently placed button on the front of the camera which lets me set the white balance one-handed while holding a ColorChecker Passport in the other hand, on which I use the large grey panel.

Execution

With the white balance set the operation is point and shoot. A half press of the shutter button makes the camera examine the scene and move the focus in and out to find the front and the back of the scene, and this gives me feedback for the framing. A full press starts the capture. The capture runs at 30 frames per second and typically takes from two to five seconds, occasionally longer. The sequence of shots I use for the stack is usually captured in one to three seconds. This rapid execution is good for working hand-held, which I prefer to do for reasons of speed and flexibility.

I generally do at least three "takes" of a scene (or a particular angle on/framing of a scene) so I can sidestep takes which for whatever reason don't work out so well when it comes to the stacking. The breezier the conditions, the more takes I tend to do. It is the fact that the execution is so easy and fast that lets me do enough takes to have a decent chance of a usable result before my patience wears out.

Processing

Helicon Focus handles post focus videos very well. (Unusually, it also handles the H.265 videos that the G9 uses for 6K video.)

I simply drag a video into Helicon and it extracts all the frames and aligns them. I then delete the ones I don't want to use, at which point stacking and retouching can be done in the usual way, more or less complicated depending on the scene and the shooting conditions, particularly camera movement and subject movement, including if I'm unlucky independent movement in different parts of the subject that I want in focus. This is one thing that can vary greatly from take to take when it is breezy.

I then create a TIFF file that I pick up in Lightroom for the rest of the post processing.

File management

There is one file per take rather than quite possibly tens of files per take for focus bracketing. This simplifies and speeds up file handling and archiving.

Now the disadvantages

With 4K video I only get 8 megapixel images. Since I generally produce outputs that are only 1300 pixels high, and since for this method I compose fairly close to the frame edges and so don't crop much, the small number of megapixels didn't seem to matter too much when I was using a Panasonic G80 for this, which only did 4K post focus video. With 6K post focus video on the Panasonic G9 I get 18 megapixel images, which is more than the 16 megapixels of the full frame on the G80. I have never done like for like 4K vs 6K comparisons so I don't know if the extra pixels really make much difference given my small outputs and generally low cropping. It obviously does help if I do decide to crop deeper.

I have to work with JPEG rather than raw. I normally use raw for single-image captures so as to maximise my options for post processing. JPEG is obviously more limited in this respect. Setting the camera white balance helps with one of the problems. Another is the dynamic range limitations of JPEG, especially as I tend to go for contre-jour and other illuminations which have high contrast and/or place the subject in shadow compared to a light background. I also find that lightly coloured petals are prone to colour bleaching in areas aligned at a certain angle to the sunlight (and yes, I know what is said about not shooting flowers in bright light, but I like the effects I can get in bright light). This all tends to result in images that are rather dark in parts that I don't want too dark, so dynamic range does rather matter to me. Fortunately, the G9 has a flat "Cinelike D" profile which I use and which I think helps in this respect. I am not aware of suffering problems from the lack of raw originals.
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

MarkSturtevant
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Location: Michigan, U.S.A.

Post by MarkSturtevant »

Thank you for that detailed description. I remember you had posted about this interesting method a while ago. I had since then had it in mind to do a rather naive experiment of shooting video with my perfectly ordinary dslr (canon 5dii) while slowly turning the focus ring, then attempting to load frames from that into Zerene Stacker. I had since then gotten into focus stacking in a more typical way (Helicon Fb tube and Zerene], and had not gotten around to trying the experiment. I don't know if this approach would work for a camera without the special 'post focus' feature. But I can see its advantages, including speed of scanning through a live subject that might move, and less vibration from the mirror whacking away a hundred Xs.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

gardenersassistant
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 5:21 am
Location: North Somerset, England

Post by gardenersassistant »

MarkSturtevant wrote:Thank you for that detailed description. I remember you had posted about this interesting method a while ago. I had since then had it in mind to do a rather naive experiment of shooting video with my perfectly ordinary dslr (canon 5dii) while slowly turning the focus ring, then attempting to load frames from that into Zerene Stacker. I had since then gotten into focus stacking in a more typical way (Helicon Fb tube and Zerene], and had not gotten around to trying the experiment. I don't know if this approach would work for a camera without the special 'post focus' feature.
I did an experiment, written up here at dpreview, where I used ordinary video and, with the focus fixed, moved the camera (hand-held) to move the focus from the front to the back of the scene. It looks doable for close-ups of flowers. An experiment written up here at dpreview used focus bracketing rather than video, but it suggests to me that the hand-held moving camera video technique would probably not work well for macros of insects etc. I wouldn't expect the technique of turning the focus ring would work any better for macro, but I haven't tried it so that is just a guess.
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

SteveB
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Post by SteveB »

I really like these photos! I suspect that with normal techniques quite a few of them would have had quite distracting backgrounds. While not the answer to every situation, stacking is clearly a great tool with which to keep the whole of what you want sharp sharp, and isolate that from the background which one can make smooth and gentle. I don't think its potential for creativity has really hit the mainstream yet.

It's interesting to me that while Olympus and Panasonic are both leaders in automated stacking, their approaches are so different. Just from a practical point of view, the single file from the Panasonic does sound a lot more convenient than wading through hundreds of (mostly) out of focus pictures as one does with the Olympus system.

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

I tried both Oly and Panasonic methods, and for my subjects, I much prefer the Oly focus bracketing, because you are in complete control of start/end points and amount of overlap per step, and there are never gaps. Ocassionally Post Focus would miss something. The probability of this happening probably depends on the choice of subject and magnification so it may not be a problem for everyone.

gardenersassistant
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Post by gardenersassistant »

SteveB wrote:I really like these photos!
Thank you. :)
SteveB wrote:I suspect that with normal techniques quite a few of them would have had quite distracting backgrounds. While not the answer to every situation, stacking is clearly a great tool with which to keep the whole of what you want sharp sharp, and isolate that from the background which one can make smooth and gentle.
In principle, yes. In practice ... it varies. Sometimes it works well and easily. Other times I run into complications that either stop me getting a nice looking split between subject and background or make it very difficult and/or time-consuming to achieve. Other complications include halos, colour shifts, and posterisation, granularisation and what I can only describe as "weirdness" in backgrounds. Some stacks are sufficiently problematic that I can't be bothered to try and make something out of them and I move on to something more tractable. And sometimes I simply prefer the look of a single-capture image even if the stacking does work for that scene, which is why I tend to shoot for both stacks and singles for every subject.
SteveB wrote: I don't think its potential for creativity has really hit the mainstream yet.
It's catching on though I think. I see it attempted often enough now that it doesn't feel exceptional any more.
SteveB wrote:It's interesting to me that while Olympus and Panasonic are both leaders in automated stacking, their approaches are so different. Just from a practical point of view, the single file from the Panasonic does sound a lot more convenient than wading through hundreds of (mostly) out of focus pictures as one does with the Olympus system.
Panasonic also does focus bracketing like Olympus, capturing multiple individual images as the focus traverses the scene. However, Panasonic only does in-camera stacking with video, rather than with stills like Olympus does. (Not that I use in-camera stacking - it proved problematic for the type of scenes I work with. That was with Panasonic. I don't know how well Olympus would get on with them.)
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

gardenersassistant
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Location: North Somerset, England

Post by gardenersassistant »

Lou Jost wrote:I tried both Oly and Panasonic methods, and for my subjects, I much prefer the Oly focus bracketing, because you are in complete control of start/end points and amount of overlap per step, and there are never gaps. Ocassionally Post Focus would miss something. The probability of this happening probably depends on the choice of subject and magnification so it may not be a problem for everyone.
Yes, post focus does sometimes jump suddenly from one distance to another, making it difficult or impossible to make the stack work well beyond the transition. That can be quite frustrating in terms of limiting options for composition.

Of course with Panasonic you can use focus bracketing, with control over start/end points and amount of overlap per step. But at around 4.5 captures per second as compared to 30 frames per second with post focus, I find focus bracketing less suitable for working hand-held (which I usually do), and/or in breezy conditions (which I quite often have to - I live in a notoriously breezy location).
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

hayath
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Post by hayath »

Very interesting technique, the results are awesome

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

I should mention that there is an important difference between Olympus' and Panasonic's implementation of focus bracketing. At least in the cameras I tested, Oly does the focus bracketing very quickly, stopping down the aperture before the first picture, and only re-opening it at the end of the stack. Capture is nearly instant until the buffer is filled. This is the sensible way to do it. Panasonic, on the other hand, inexplicably closes and opens the aperture after each shot in the stack, greatly slowing the capture process. This is really stupid.

gardenersassistant
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Post by gardenersassistant »

hayath wrote:Very interesting technique, the results are awesome
Thank you!
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

gardenersassistant
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 5:21 am
Location: North Somerset, England

Post by gardenersassistant »

Lou Jost wrote:I should mention that there is an important difference between Olympus' and Panasonic's implementation of focus bracketing. At least in the cameras I tested, Oly does the focus bracketing very quickly, stopping down the aperture before the first picture, and only re-opening it at the end of the stack. Capture is nearly instant until the buffer is filled. This is the sensible way to do it. Panasonic, on the other hand, inexplicably closes and opens the aperture after each shot in the stack, greatly slowing the capture process. This is really stupid.
That is very interesting, I didn't know that about the Olympus implementation. Is that just the case when for in-camera stacks (do I recall that uses a fixed 8 or so shots?), or is it also the case for user-defined focus bracket sets, which could have a large number of shots?

I wonder how many raw shots can you get in before the buffer fills? (It is about 45 on the G9).

You've got me interested. :)

Presumably the EM1/EM5 will do dual IS with the Olympus 60mm macro?
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

s that just the case when for in-camera stacks
No, my Oly cameras don't do in-camera stacks, nor would I want them to.
I wonder how many raw shots can you get in before the buffer fills?


I'm not sure....
Presumably the EM1/EM5 will do dual IS with the Olympus 60mm macro?
No, most Oly lenses don't have optical IS, that's another important difference between Panasonic and Oly.

gardenersassistant
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Post by gardenersassistant »

Lou Jost wrote:
Is that just the case when for in-camera stacks
No, my Oly cameras don't do in-camera stacks, nor would I want them to.
I don't find it useful; it didn't work well in my tests.
Lou Jost wrote:
Presumably the EM1/EM5 will do dual IS with the Olympus 60mm macro?
No, most Oly lenses don't have optical IS, that's another important difference between Panasonic and Oly.
I realise now that was a stupid question. I use the 60mm macro with a G9. I had forgotten that it doesn't have OIS. I do wish my memory worked better!
Nick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardeners ... ollections

Rework and reposts of my images posted in this forum are always welcome, especially if they come with an explanation of what you did and how you did it.

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