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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon D850 - Focus Shift at the Gardens

The Focus Shift feature on the Nikon D850 had me hooked , so off I went to Singapore Botanic Gardens hoping to find some good scenes / subjects for me to experiment Focus Shift on. I also wanted to create images that would normally not be composed unless some form of focus stacking technique was employed.

Here is one scene which I find very interesting.

For the scene , I wanted to focus on the TWO main subjects :

1. the frog that was resting on the water lily leaf ....... distance to camera was ~ 12 feet

2. the "jewel" like water droplets on the leaf ....... distance to camera was ~ 1.5 feet

Normally for the scene described above , where the main subjects were at such extreme distances especially the second one which was at the minimum focusing distance of the Nikkor lens, it would have been natural for me to shoot the scene with a wide open (small f-number) aperture to get something like this.

ISO200 , f10.0 , 1/60s , Nikkor 24-120mm f4.0 @120mm focal length , Tripod setup

So if I wanted both subjects to be tack sharp, I would definitely use the Focus Stacking technique because the distances between the subjects were just too great for both to be in focus at 120mm focal length even with an aperture of f22.

In addition focus stacking manually could not have been an easy task. I would probably capture at least 15 images by changing and guessing the focus points manually , using an aperture of at least f16. The whole process would probably take quite some time with the guessing of the focus points & with a high chance of performing the exercise repeatedly. The light conditions could also be changing while doing this adding to the complexity which is why using focus stacking techniques outdoor is not a common occurrence.

Now with the Nikon D850 FOCUS SHIFT feature, it was very much easier and so much faster even if I had to do it repeatedly. There is also the added benefit of the D850 saving each Shift sequence images into a new folder automatically allowing for ease in locating images.

To get my final image , the Focus Shift settings were :

1. No. of images set to 30

2. Focus step width set to 8 (maximum is 10)

3. Lens aperture set to f10

4. No. of images stacked during Post Processing : 26

The post processing part was not too long. I used 26 out of the 30 images to stack. Here is a breakdown of the timings (I was using my 13.3" Macbook PRO and Photoshop CC) :

1. Import the 26 JPEG FINE files into Photoshop as Layers .......... 4 minutes

2. Auto-Align all 26 layers .......... 5 minutes

3. Auto-Blend (stack option) all 26 layers ........... 5 minutes

4. Final touch-up on stacked image ......... 3 minutes

Total time spent for the three steps was 17 minutes.

I had to use the Auto-Align step because there was some slight movement with the foreground leaf (with the droplets) due to a very weak breeze. As some of the individual images may have been slightly mis-aligned, I had to be align first prior to stacking. Best case is to always wait for ZERO wind to capture the Focus Shift sequence.

Note: timing varies when performing Auto-Align and Auto-Blend , their timing greatly depends on how complex the contents within the image are.

So not only have I accomplished my goals of getting both main subjects to be sharp, now I have this cool and unique looking capture of the scene

Other Focus Shift images from the session.

A) The innards of our national flower the Vanda Miss Joaquim

1. No. of images set to 30

2. Focus step width set to 8 (maximum is 10)

3. Lens aperture set to f10

4. Lens : Nikkor 60mm micro f2.8

5. No. of images stacked during Post Processing : 30

Not perfect by any means , I should have increased the no. of images to 50 and reduced the Focus step width to 6 or 7 to get even more DOF and finer results

B) Torch Ginger plant

1. No. of images set to 20

2. Focus step width set to 9 (maximum is 10)

3. Lens aperture set to f8

4. Lens : Nikkor 60mm micro f2.8

5. No. of images stacked during Post Processing : 13

Setting the aperture to f8.0 for the individual captures helped produce the SOFT BOKEH background which would otherwise have been impossible to obtain if apertures between f22 to f32 were used (for single capture).

That's it for this post.

Happy Focus Shifting with your D850 !!

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