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Photo Stacking for Landscapes

August 15, 2017

It is hard to believe that it is August already.  The summer really seemed to fly by.  I missed posting in July, but will try to make up for it with multiple posts in August.  

 

About a month ago, I was at a camera club event and the presenter was talking about a photo that he had been wanting to take of a statue and the full moon.  It seemed like a cool idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it would have be taken in multiple frames since it would not be possible given the area to have enough depth of field.  Then, about a week ago, I was at a sunflower field in Cold Spring MN.  I overheard a couple of other photographers talking.  They were talking about photo stacking.  The one photographer indicated that she thought it was too complicated and didn't want to go to the effort.

 

At that same shoot, I had this idea of having this prominent sunflower head in the foreground and the barn's silo in the background.  Unfortunately, I could not get to a place where I could get the hyperfocal point needed to pull off the image without either the silo being too small in the frame, or having the sunflower head not being prominent enough.  The solution was to take 2 images with one focused on the sunflower head, and the other focused at the hyperlocal point, which left my sunflower head out of focus.  Here are the two shots that I took:

 

 

 As you can see, the first shot, the sunflower head is very sharp, but the silo is soft.  In the second image, the silo is sharp, as are the other sunflowers in the image, but the large sunflower head is very soft.

 

Stacking the images is very easy.  From Lightroom, select both images, right click and select Edit In/Open As Layers In Photoshop.

Photoshop will open showing the two layers.  

Select the two layers and using the Edit Menu, select Auto-Align.  This will ensure that the two images are aligned as closely as possible.  With outdoor images there is always a risk of slight movement in the image due to wind.

 Once the images are aligned, then ensure the two layers are still selected and select auto-blend.  This step will combine the two images taking the sharpest parts of both.

 At this point, we have combined the two images and we have our composite.  It would be nice to think that at this point we are finished, but if we take a closer look, we will notice that there are some areas of the image that need a little bit of work.

 Your first thought might to clean up the layer masks, but when you try and do this there are a couple of things that you will discover.  The first is that you need to create a new layer mask to do the clean-up.  The reason being that for some reason, if you select the layer mask that were created by Photoshop, it does not let you edit them.  The second issue is that many of these blurry areas are the result of slight movement in the image.  Clean-up becomes a variety of cloning plus some mask clean up.  When finished, flatten and save the image.  The image will then appear in Lightroom.  You can now finish working on the image just like you would any other raw image.  The results look like the following:

 Intersted in learning more?  Sign up for one of my classes or workshops.  You can find more information at www.frozenhiker.com.