How well do you know your camera?

By Amy Horn

Ice focus stacked imageAlmost a year ago I changed camera systems. Sold all my Nikon gear for an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and it has been a fun year learning new features on this camera. The two I use most are focus bracketing and focus stacking. The focus bracketing feature programs the camera to take up to 999 photos and it adjusts focus from near to far on the subject. Of course, a tripod and shutter release are



Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.

Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.


Focus stacking on the Olympus camera is similar to focus bracketing in that the camera is programmed to capture images from near to far but it will only capture eight images with this feature. The bonus of this stacking feature is the camera stacks the eight images and processes a final stacked .jpg in camera! The image of Queen Anne’s Lace is an example of a .jpg using this feature.

Another feature I enjoy using is the double exposure setting. With this feature, I capture one image and before I capture the second image, the viewfinder displays the first so that I can place the double image where I want. This is an image from Gold King Mine, Jerome using the double exposure setting.Double exposure image

There a few other features I have yet to explore on my new camera and I will get to them. Do you have features on your camera that you don’t use or didn’t know you had? For me, learning is fun and if it gives me an excuse to play with my camera, I don’t complain!


Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Cactus Blossoms & Macro Photography

Sara Goodnick

Cactus_Flowers-2-6The Sonoran Desert is the only place I have lived that has a truly magnificent springtime. The air is cool and refreshing, and color is bursting out in a normally pale and dusty landscape. It usually begins in mid-February, and goes on in stages until late May.

My favorite flowers are the cactus blossoms because they appear on such an unlikely source. The delicate petals and amazing colors invite closer inspection, where the pistils and stamens reveal massive amounts of pollen and usually an insect exploring the inner parts.Cactus_Flowers-2-7

This March, during the late afternoon nearing sunset, I took my tripod, a stool, a reflector, my camera, a Nikon D700, with a Nikon 105 mm Micro lens, and a cable release, out around our home which is surrounded by the desert. I had decided to use a process called photo stacking to give detail throughout the photograph in the areas i felt were important. This entails making a series of 5-25 images focusing on different parts of the flower. Using the software Helicon Focus, I generated the final images.Cactus_Flowers-2-3

It is important to use a tripod and to stay organized. The differing focal lengths must go in order. This cannot be random or the software will not work well. So I set it all up, then perched comfortably as possible on my stool, and focused, clicked, focused 1/8th” closer, clicked, etc. as many times as I needed to cover the blossoms.

Cactus_Flowers-2-8I uploaded them into Lightroom, made a few adjustments to each image (all in each sub-group were synchronized), then uploaded each set into Helicon Focus. It always takes some experimenting to decide which of the 3 stacking methods works best with which set of images. The flattened composite is saved as a tiff, and taken back into Lightroom or Photoshop for final minor adjustments and cropping.


Sara Goodnick is a nature and portrait photographer and a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

To Stack or not to Stack?

by Bruce Taubert

A few years ago I became quite excited about photographing “jumping spiders.” They have beautiful eyes, a hairdo that would make Alfalfa jealous, and all sorts of interesting features on their legs and fangs. The problem is they are very small—a large one is one half an inch long and most are in the one quarter inch long range. In addition they can be quite jittery and it takes hours, not minutes, to take an acceptable image. Needless to say because I am a wildlife photographer I can be quite tenacious (it took me 13 years to take my favorite flying elf owl image) and I managed to convince a jumping spider to sit still long enough to have its portrait taken. Unfortunately, when I looked at the image on the computer I was disappointed.  The eyes and hairdo were in focus but the front legs were woefully out of focus, detracting from the overall quality of the entire image.

The problem I ran into is one that is common to all macro photographers—limited depth of field at high magnifications. Even at f/16 I could not obtain sufficient depth of field to have the front legs and the eyes in focus in the same shot. I could have tried the same image at a higher aperture but the results would have been just as poor, with the addition of loss of image quality resulting from diffraction (bending of light as it passes through a small opening). Image stacking to the rescue!

Image stacking is a process where the photographer takes several images of the same subject at different focus points and combines them in a “focus stacking” software.  With the jumping spider I took five images—one of the feet on the front legs, one of the eyes, and three at different focus points in-between the eyes and feet.  I then combined them in Zerene Stacker (I also use Helicon focus) and, Voila, I had an image of a jumping spider with all of the important elements in sharp focus. The process is simple but the practice takes, well practice. Determining the number of images to take for a particular subject can be challenging and making sure that there is very little or no camera movement during the multiple captures can be just as frustrating. But, the results are impossible to get using any other method.