April 11, 2014

A Personal Photo Challenge - Close-up/Macro

It’s time for A Personal Photo Challenge! “Close-up/Macro” is the theme this month.

A Personal Photo Challenge

Spare time has been a rare commodity at our cottage lately, but I managed to capture and post-process three new images for this month’s challenge. I used my Nikon D800 DSLR and 105mm macro lens. Please click on each photo to see them bigger and study the details.

purple pansy macro
f/20, 1/4 second, ISO 320

orange center daffodil (stacked focus)
f/20, 1/5 second, ISO 320

pink blossom macro (stacked focus)
f/32, 0.3 second, ISO 320

When I think of a macro mode, floral subject matter always comes to mind. I used to curse light conditions and contort my body into all kinds of painful positions by taking flower macro shots in the field. Well, this gal takes a smarter approach these days and sets up photo shoots inside. (And my aching bones and muscles thank me.)

Each of the flower photos was taken with the setup shown below. A tripod, diffused natural light (white shade over window), and white foam-core board are essential elements. The white boards bounce light into the shadow areas. A fine spray of water on the pink blossom provided extra texture.

I also taught myself a brand new technique, one that I will use again and again in future macro work. The second and third macro photos above were created with “focus stacking.” I saw a photographer refer to the technique about a year ago and found it intriguing. But I had forgotten about trying it until my recent photo shoot.

This article provides a great explanation about how to achieve focus stacking. I combined three photos to create each final photo, and all of them focused on different parts of the flower within the frame. Then I used Photoshop CC to combine the image layer stacks and magically make everything appear in focus. If you happen to use Photoshop Elements 12 for post-processing, please refer to this video for step-by-step instructions.

I hope you will visit A Personal Photo Challenge blog and check out the creative efforts of other participants too!


  1. Really? I can do that stacking thing and have, but didn't know how beautifully it would work on flowers. The pansy is a bit too close for my personal preferences and, yes, I know that I am an idiot. The second is magnificent. Absolutely delightful...the perfect distance/closeness...wonderful. And using a spritz of water on the latter...you're brilliant. I like your indoor set-up a lot and I think that my old body would appreciate doing something like that, too.

  2. Wow, these are really gorgeous photos Donna. I've never heard of 'stacking' before. I am hoping to join in but am quite busy today preparing for dinner guests and we are taking a day trip tomorrow so I don't know if I'll have my post done in time. I'll try. Have a great day!

  3. AMAZING! So much intense color that it makes you feel like you're going inside of the photo. I have a white board I bought to take pics of dolls years ago. I have forgotten all about it! Thanks for hosting our party my friend. Sweet hugs to you and hubby both!

  4. I just read in my camera book about focus stacking. I'm going to have to investigate further after seeing these shots! Wonderful. I love seeing your camera set up as well. I took mine with light coming in a side window, too, but no foam core board to reflect light back onto the subject. I do have some, so I'll use it another time. Gorgeous rich colours in that pansy.

  5. That photo stacking technique sounds fascinating. I enjoyed all your photos, especially #2. thanks for hosting and providing such a fun challenge.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous, Donna! Never heard of stacking either but I don't use Photoshop anyway. The second was my fave! Thanks for the fun challenge!

  7. The pink blossom is stunning. I always learn something new from you Donna and so appreciate it. Thank you.

  8. Stacked focus sounds interesting but unless PicMonkey can do it, I won't be trying it any time soon. :-) Sounds like a neat way to compose a photo though. I really like the pansy, and it made me remember that a photographer friend told me a couple of years ago, those are the kind of photos he sells a lot of.
    Thanks for hosting Donna.

  9. Wow. I love the deep colour and texture in that pansy. Beautiful, Donna.

    Thanks for the quick explanation of photo stacking. I've tried to shoot a daffodil form that perspective and it just doesn't work with wide aperture. Very interesting.

  10. Love the second one. So beautiful! :)

  11. Stunning!! I love all three though I thing number one is my fav.
    I need a lot of practice with this but at least the challenge got the lens out of the box.

  12. The only stacking I'm doing lately is firewood - for next year! My shoulders and wrists are not happy, especially as I've been gardening for three days straight!
    Enough of that though, I'm interested in how you created these macros, quite a difference from good old point and shoot! I doubt I'd have the patience required to learn another complicated thing, but I love hearing about your efforts which definitely paid off Donna - beautiful shots.

    Thanks for another great challenge.
    Thinking of you and Mr. Jim - sending love.

  13. All three shots are beautiful, as always, but I am smitten with the rich color of that gorgeous pansy. I have to investigate this focus stacking. I've only heard of stacking with star trails pics...
    Thanks Donna, I always enjoy this Challenge so much. Love to you and Mr. Jim...

  14. These are so inspiring Donna. Something I notice about the professionals, you, is the CRISPNESS of your images. The lighting and composition, too, but so SHARP. I'm enjoying the articles you include in the challenge, as well. Thanks for teaching and hosting. My Google account is still showing my old Blogger site, but I'm now posting at www.myyondermountain.com

  15. You just blow me away with your knowledge Donna!
    Thank you so much for putting so much into these challenges with all the information you give us before hand.
    I've read the ones that apply to my camera and I've saved them for future use - thank you.
    The pressures of work meant I couldn't get out and about this time, so I used some close ups from my archives.
    You're a brilliant teacher and you inspire me to practice these techniques in future shots!
    Hugs to you and Mr Jim
    Shane x

  16. Beautiful! It's so neat to see details you usually miss. Macro photography is so fun! I've never heard of stacking. I might have to look into it more.

  17. Awesome !!!
    I love them all.

  18. Oh my, Donna! I confess...I am glad that I did not see these glorious images before I settled on my own photos for the challenge, or I may have been too intimidated to try! You are a master!

    Beautiful, beautiful!

  19. Hi Donna!
    Such beautiful images. Can I come live with you for a week so you can show me how to do anything on a manual setting? Ha, I'm still clinging to auto!
    I'm joining in the fun this month. Thanks for hosting this challenge.

  20. Absolutely gorgeous shots. I can't even choose a favorite, all three are just amazing. I like your set up for taking the shots too

  21. Oh! really nice flower shots- Love seeing your photo set up too- so nice to see behind the scenes on photos like this- it's hard to imagine how they're done.

  22. Ohmyword Girl....Your work is simply, Gorgeous...and that video lesson???Hahaaa....needless to say, that's why we have YOU to explain things...Hahaaa...
    Tell Mr Jim hello!!!

    1. Haha, that was the only tutorial link I could find for Elements 12. He made it WAY too complicated and didn’t even know how to pull in photos as layers via one click.

    oops. and your comment Donna.
    I think mostly the lizards I see around are pretty harmless if you keep out of their way!
    It is easy when the zoom is working!

    Lovely to see your photos, that middle one is amazing!

  24. These are fantastic! I love the details and your explanations of the settings. I always learn something when I stop by to visit your photo challenge. Thanks for showing us your set-up, too. It's very helpful information.

  25. Wow, Donna, those are absolutely amazing photos! All the detail makes one realize they're not 'just a flower,' but such an intricate design. The purple in that first photo is just deep and stunning. Like the light box and this reminds me that I need to get my tripod out more (and possibly even read the online book for my camera!)

  26. Donna! Gorgeous! LOVE them all but that first one is breathtaking. I will look into this focus staking. Sounds very interesting.


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