Blended Layers and Macro Photography

This past weekend I tried my hand at macro photography in combination with blended layers in Photoshop.

Miniature bike - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

The above model is a shade under 3/4 of an inch tall with the base maybe nudging the 3 inch mark.  It was given to me by my mother for one of my birthdays, and the wheels and pedals both turn.  I don’t know what made her choose this particular piece, but I suspect she just found it interesting, much like I do.

Miniature Astronaut - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

Macro photography is loosely described as snapping a close-up picture of an object, typically using a macro lens.  Macro lenses allow you to get very near the subject so that it fills the frame.  These pictures are not crops of a larger picture.  They are the pictures as shot . . . almost.

The problem with Macro lenses is they have a small depth of field, meaning the area in focus is a narrow band; things further away and things that are closer than that narrow band are out of focus.  The closer one focuses, the smaller the band becomes.

So, for instance, a single picture of the astronaut would show part of the figurine in sharp focus, and parts would have a soft focus or be outright blurry.   As an aside, this particular figurine was purchased during one of our visits to Cape Canaveral.  It might have been the time we went to see a shuttle launch, but my memory is not that good.

Miniature Space Shuttle - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

We got this shuttle model at the same time.  To shoot it, and have it be in focus, I took advantage of one of the many features of Photoshop.  Basically you shoot multiple photos each focused in successive slices of the subject (front to back or vice-versa).  You then bring all the layers into one file, and you tell Photoshop to blend them.  Photoshop will automatically take the portion of each slice that is in focus and combine the in-focus portions into one picture where the subject is in focus front to back.

Earth, Stars, and Space Shuttle - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

These are my first attempts at this, and while generally pleased with the results, I have learned through trail and error.  The B&W album has more about it. 

Melisa’s brother gave this commemorative Space Shuttle piece to Melisa while we were down there helping him take care of things following the suicide of his wife.  

In part it was gratitude, but in part it was his desire to divest himself of things reminding him of NASA, where she worked.

It evokes two particular kinds of sadness.  One is the reminder we are no longer a space-faring nation, and are reduced to hitching rides.

The other is the memory of how much Janet liked working for NASA, and how life should have worked out better for her.

Earth, Stars, and Space Shuttle - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

Earth, Stars, and Space Shuttle – Macro Photography + Blended Layers

This is a particularly difficult piece to shoot because the three dimensional details blend in at different depths.

Most of these photos are a maximum of five layers, with the magic number appearing to be four.  Three is sometimes too few, and anything over five does not work well.

I said these are not crops, but these close-ups are, and are included to better show the details of the piece.

Miniature Pineapple - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

This was my second try at the crystal pineapple, and I like the results.  We purchased this piece during one of our Hawaii trips, and it always awakes my desire to go visit (or to go live there).

Miniature Sailboat - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

Another gift from my mother, probably because the logo for the company I had for 20 years was a sailboat sailing into the sunset.  For reference, here is the Hartwick Professionals, Inc. logo:

More likely she got it because my mother, and hence me, comes from a family of sailors.  Whatever the reason, it’s a nice piece.  

This boat is maybe two inches tall.  This was also  difficult to shoot and blend because the surfaces are polished, and reflections messed up the blending.  The shot above was the result of my third or fourth try.

Earth, Stars, and Space Shuttle - Macro Photography + Blended Layers

Earth, Stars, and Space Shuttle - Single Macro Shot

A few more photos of the commemorative shuttle piece showing a time when as a nation we dared to invest in our future.  A time when vision trumped greed, pride helped overcome obstacles, honor and courage were admired traits, and when we still believed in the promise of the future.  Overly dramatic? Perhaps.  

Today many contend the cost was too great, the risks were to high.  They forget humans have always relied on those willing to accept the cost and risk to blaze a path to a better future.   

The sure bet would be to give them free reign, not to caution them and hold them back.

Miniature Space Shuttle - Macro Photography + Blended Layers + Effect Filter - B&W

A final reminder that clicking on the color photos will take you to the color SmugMug album of these pictures, and clicking on any of the Black & White photos will take you to the, duh!, black and white SmugMug album of these photographs.  

Edited to Add: Wordperfect has dropped the links again. Are the links to the color and b&w albums:
http://ejdalise.smugmug.com/My-Photography/Blended-Layers-Color/i-hNLDmWK
http://ejdalise.smugmug.com/My-Photography/Blended-Layers-Black/i-KFR6Pq2

Here are a few more examples.

Miniature bike - Macro Photography + Blended Layers - B&W

Miniature Pineapple - Macro Photography + Blended Layers - B&W

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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7 Responses to Blended Layers and Macro Photography

  1. Sweet, I didn’t know this is automated now in Photoshop. I had some desires to use this technique using the manual method of masking the defocused area of the separate images layer by layer, which takes a long time by hand.

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    • disperser says:

      It does the bulk of the work, and you still have the option to tweak it. However, I did find you want photos that are relatively close to each other in focus (big out of focus blobs tend to affect the final result). I plan to play a little more with this, perhaps with landscapes as well.

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  2. I have never heard it called blending. It is good to know the vocab. language can be a barrier. Amelia

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    • disperser says:

      Yes . . . the English language can be a bit tricky for Brits to master.

      Yes, that’s a joke, and please excuse the inclusive “Brits”; I understand there are people who might object to the term, but I mean it as inclusive of anyone born West of the British Channel, and East of the Canaries.

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