Tutorial: Bracketed Landscape with Focus Stacking

Tutorial: Bracketed Landscape with Focus Stacking

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The technique of the Focus Stacking consists in taking a series of pictures gradually changing the focus between the one and the other; being processed will join the shots, taking advantage of each image only those parts that appear to be in focus. In landscape photography the main rule is to focus all the elements of the foreground and take some exposure for the sky or highlights.

When i was at the lake in Campo Imperatore I shot a large number of exposures to focus on all the rocks it was, sky and mountain. When I go home indeed I realized that I really need only one of the exposures for the foreground, and only one of exposures for the mountain, focus stack all the rocks one by one in this case was not so necessary, cause the focus was pratically the same for each rock. I did not think about it 🙂

So in this tutorial I will show you how to apply focus stacking in a foregrounded landscape using Bracketing mode and how I use other exposures for my final image.

 

Shooting and preparing the images

I took a series of exposures bracketed images ( -1 , 0, +1 ) for the rocks in the foreground and an additional bracketed series of shots focusing the mountain set on ∞  ( -1 , 0 + 1 ).

Added to this, there is another shot that I took in the late evening to replace the mountain covered by clouds. For a total of 7 exposures.

ESEMPIO

ESEMPIO1

I take all the shots using tripod, ISO 100 and f/11

Below all the steps I do that show you  how to focus stack and how to make a blend with additional exposure

 

Stacking and Auto Blending

1. Launch Lightroom and select all the stack images.

2. Right Click on the images selected. Develop settings>Sync Settings

3. Adjust for all the stacked images,  distortion,  white balance, contrast ecc…

4. Right Click again and select Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

5. Select all the layers and Go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers, with settings as follow:

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6.  Regroup layers by exposure.

For a 2 series of bracketing (-1; 0 +1) x 2 I had 2 overexposed, 2 correct and 2 underexposed images.

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7. Highlight images by group and blend them, Edit>Auto-Blend Layer like below:

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Photoshop will blend the highlighted images creating a layer mask for each image, to show in white the sharp and in black the hidden areas. Select this layers and merge them.

 

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Theese three images are now a “Bracketed Focus Stacked Series”, you can now edit them with Photoshop as you do with a normal bracketing series.  I usually edit theese shots using Luminance Masks to select all the brights and shadows I need without affecting the entire picture in order to create a final quality image.

 

Exposure Blend

Remember the seventh exposure that I said at the beginning? I’ve taken it just before leaving the location, cause I had seen that the mountain began to discover from the clouds. In that picture I had masked only this part of the mountain without affecting the sky.

1. Put the new layer at the top, and auto align again with Edit>Auto-Align Layers

2. Create layer mask and click (Ctrl+I; PC) or (Cmd+I MAC) to invert it

3. Select now a white brush and paint in the areas of the sky that you want to blend in

4. Press( Ctrl+E; PC) or (Cmd+E; MAC) to merge layers

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Conclusions

The final question is “How many images do I need, and where should they be focused?”

The answer depends on what your scene looks like and what effect you’re trying to achieve.

At a minimum, you need to have each scene element you need be sharp, at least one (or a series of bracketing shots)

Sometimes you can do that by focusing specifically on each element you care about. For example in presence of many close-up elements in the foreground, ( leafs, flowers and other things that wind can move). In this case take many exposure as for the element you need.

 

 


Moonwalk

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Giuseppe Sapori - Moonwalk

Night shot taken in the valley of Campo Imperatore under the peaks of the Grand Sasso mountain. I realized this image in the following hours to that of my previous post. Unfortunately where I was previously, the mountains close me a full view of the milky way and clouds dirtied a little too much the landscape, I had to leave the beautiful location where I was standing near the lake and the Corno Grande, to follow the milky way to make it fully visible in a lower part of the mountain.

When I arrived at this place,  the moon was still high, so I waited for the sunset of the moon to see the most of all the milky way show. I create this image by two main shots, a exposure taken to the sky and a second for the foreground. I combined the two shots with the “Photomerge” funcion in Photoshop. For the sky shot I used an exposure time of 30 seconds and high ISO value. For the foreground, instead I used 4 minute long exposure time and less ISO  to bring brightness and visibility to the underlying stones.

 

TECHNICAL STUFF 

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

2 Exposures:

ISO: 2000 at f/2,8 for the sky

ISO 1600 at f/4 for the sky (280 sec.)

Software: Photoshop CC2015


The Heaven Mirror

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Giuseppe Sapori - The Heaven Mirror

Hello guys, first of all happy new year and lucky 2016 to everyone!! I decided to start this year with a series of shots taken at Gran Sasso during last autumn. It ‘a series of spectacular shots of all the magnificent nature that you can find those heights, including stars. I decided to start in chronological order from the first photo taken during sunset on the lake overlooking the tip of the big horn of Gran Sasso, a sight to leave speechless by the beauty, immersed in nature for hours it was also fun to see the wild horses and the ox that occasionally approached the lake to drink.

I made dozens of shots of this part, from the golden hour to finally get virtually the blue hour. The photographs taken during the golden hour were definitely the most fascinating in terms of colors, but the bright light of this hour restrained me to choose these shots, while the exposures taken during the blue hour were much more attractive but less marked with reflections. So I decided to  choose a series of exposures taken in the mid point of time, as lights and reflections that were the right measure.

To make the shot more interesting I chose to portray most foreground, rather than making an image somewhere between water and sky. This difference needed careful focus of rocks below than the horizon. For this reason I made a focus stacking on the rocks on the bottom and then toward the horizon to better frame the mountains and have an image that was both elements in focus. Until the latest shots, the top of the mountain was covered by clouds, only in the late clouds go away from Corno Grande. For this reason I show the mountain “discovery” from the clouds with a exposure that I had made a few minutes later, masking it with those previously results obtained from focus stacking

 

TECHNICAL STUFF 

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

ISO: 100 at f/11

3 Exposures (-1; 0; +1) stacked on the rocks

3 Exposures (-1; 0; +1) stacked on the horizon

1 Exposure for the mountain in the horizon

Software: Photoshop CC2015

 


Site Founder

Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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