When Kingdoms Collide 

Hellooooo! 

After work, I was on my way home when my friend PJ asked me if I wanted to shoot. Of course I did! So quickly grabbed my camera and tripod and drove off so that I wouldn't miss the dramatic sunset I could see in my rear view mirror. 

We were shooting in a mangrove swamp with a view towards Al Reem Island - an area of high-rise residential apartments. When I arrived the tide was low, revealing the roots of the mangrove trees poking through a thin layer of green algae. This was the perfect opportunity to try a new technique - focus stacking. 

I was shooting with my Fujifillm XT2 and Fujinon 16mm. Thanks to this lens' amazing ability to focus at very short distances, I was able to position my camera extremely close to the roots whilst being able to maintain image sharpness. The image was created by capturing 3 exposures, moving the focal point progressively towards the horizon. 

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So, how did I achieve this? Well, I decided to put together a little step-by-step guide for you! 

Step 1: Edit RAW files in Lightroom

Nothing too complicated here! Edit one of the images in Adobe Lightroom, and then synchronise the settings so that all three images will have an identical edit. Then, highlight all three images, right click, and choose 'Open as Layers in Photoshop'.

Step 2: Auto-Align Layers...

Again, nothing too complicated. Select 'Auto-Align Layers' and let the computer do its thing. 

The reason this step is critical is because as the focus of the lens changes, the lens will 'breathe'. I don't know the technical reason for this, but I'm sure Google will help if you are interested. Basically, the distortion of the lens will change slightly, and by aligning the layers they will line up perfectly! 

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 00.53.41.png

Step 3: Auto-Blend Layers... 

Once again, nothing too complicated. Select 'Auto-Blend Layers...', ensure that 'Stack Images' is selected and sit back and enjoy watching the blue bar progress slowly to the right. This process will select the sharpest pixels and apply a layer mask so that only the sharpest pixels are visible.

 

As a check, you can look at the layers with their masks on the right hand side. You should see something similar to this. As you can see, the foreground of the image is visible on the first image, the mid-ground of the image is visible from the middle image and the background of the image is visible on the bottom image. 

(In case your unsure, the blacked out areas show which areas of each layer is hidden :D 

Step 4: Flatten Image and Export

You guessed it, nothing too complicated! Flatten your layers and export that bad boy! 

And below are my three original exposures, before processing. You can see the 'focus breathing' about I was talking about earlier by clicking on one and then the right/left arrow. 

 

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