OM System cameras have focus stacking a unique function, which is useful to increase the depth of field in macro photography. But there is another use case for focus stacking, even though the depth of field normally isn’t an issue.
When is focus stacking helpful for landscape photography?
A popular creative means in landscape photography is to place an object in the foreground as this emphasises depth. Always when you do this depth of field becomes relevant in landscape photography, even though wide-angle lenses have a much bigger depth of field than tele lenses. But in landscape photography the distances are enormous. Therefore closing the aperture doesn’t help. Especially as image quality is getting worse when you use a smaller f-stop than 11.
What to consider when using Focus Stacking
In my article “Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing” I write about the needed settings in detail. In opposite to macro photography you have to consider a bit more. As already said above you should avoid smaller apertures than 11. In case you close it further diffraction will decrease your image quality. In addition, most properly you must experiment a bit with the step size. Which one is fitting depends on the lens, focusing distance and aperture. Therefore a recommendation is hardly possible.
Focus Stacking takes the first image on the focus point you have set. The next image is taken from a closer point and the following will be taken behind the first focus point. Therefore you should not fonearestthe the closest distance which should be sharp, but behind. Also here you must experiment to get the result you would achieve.
Additional sources for this topic
In case you would like to get more information about focus stacking in landscape photography you find additional information on the web. Following sources, I can recommend.
In the first years of digital photography only sensors, which were smaller in size than 35mm format (24x36mm2), have been available. As the normal user has been used to use the focal length, and the resulting field of view, at this time industry began to specify the focal length of a camera as equivalent to 35mm. This had the advantage that consumers quickly understood which angle of view a lens depicts on the smaller sensor.
When sensors in 35mm format came onto the market, this nomenclature was adopted. This quickly established a test culture in which cameras with a smaller sensor were compared with the 35mm format. For this purpose, the 35mm format was taken as the standard. The recording of the camera with the smaller sensor was made in such a way that it came as close as possible to that of the 35mm camera.
However, it usually does not stop with the above statements. The testers often go even further and crop all sensors that are used for comparison to the 3:2 format. Why? If you look at the history of photography, you realize that photography has always had many different formats. Nevertheless, you then hear statements like: Despite the same native resolution, the sensor has a lower resolution in the 3:2 format. In my understanding, this is a wrong approach, you could also crop the 3:2 format to the 4:3 format. This would end in a reverse the statement. Here’s an example where I took the Micro Four Thirds camera as a reference and cropped the Sony image.
Alternatives for the 35mm format as standard
After more than 3 decades of digital photography, it is time to stop comparing with the 35mm format. Instead of doing that we should start to discuss the strength of each format. This would give the end-user the opportunity to select the format on their needs. With a Micro Four Thirds camera, you will never make the same images as with a 35mm camera. Just as you will not take the same pictures with a medium format camera and a 35mm camera. For this reason, it makes little sense to use such comparisons in technology. As users, we have to ask ourselves what is important to us in order to implement our photographic ideas.
In case you have to be as mobile as possible Micro Four Thirds is the camera system of your choice. In case you need to shoot in complete darkness and you need to have the best of the best noise performance then a medium format camera might be the right selection. However at the end of the day, the photographer takes the image. Technology is just a support for doing things easier than without it, it cannot substitute your creativity.
From the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe, we flew via Victoria Waterfalls to Kasane in Botswana. We were lucky as our pilot made an extra round over the Victoria Waterfalls, which is a very impressive view, even though the water level is not very high in November. From Kasane, we flew to the Moreni Game Resort. Where we could visit the Wilderness Safaris camp Mombo the second camp on this trip. The welcome in the room was with lovely arranged coffee beans very warm.
First game drive in Botswana
As in Zimbabwe, we haven’t much time to enjoy the room as we started immediately to a game drive. The Okavango Delta is even more impressive than the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. Not only due to the animal variety but also scenic. As we have been there shortly before the rainy season, we were lucky to see also nice cloud formations. In the image below we even had the hope that we are getting a thunderstorm and I hoped I would be able to shoot some flashes with the Live Composite mode. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Despite the scenic, we concentrate on the wildlife. After a short time, we met a lion family which killed a zebra shortly before. Unfortunately, we missed the hunt, but anyway it was interesting to observe the family hierarchies and the behaviour of the animals.
The family also had offspring who nibbled at the zebra rather clumsily and tried to secure a piece. We spent an hour here and the time flew by. Can’t imagine anything more exciting than observing nature. Some of my friends asked if it was disgusting, but being in the wild and seeing animals in their natural habitat is more than normal. On the contrary, it was exciting to watch.
Birds in Botswana
After we had seen enough we went on a search to find more wildlife. As said, we were in Botswana at the beginning of the rainy season and therefore there was almost no water in the Okavango Delta. The few remains of water were very popular not only with water dwellers but of course also with their predators, the kingfishers. One of my favourite animals in Africa. So far I only know the European kingfisher. In Africa, however, I learned to love the kingfisher genus as such and in the places where the fish are trapped in a puddle, it was of course very easy to find this species of animal and could observe its behaviour very well.
The bird biodiversity in the Okavango delta is phenomenal and a perfect area to use one of my favourite Olympus OM-D functions. Pro Capture is very helpful to capture the exact moment when birds take off. One of the most beautiful birds species is in my eyes, beside the kingfishers, the bee-eaters.
Have you recognised that, if several photographers do together a photo walk, everyone brings different images back home? This is due to the different experience everybody has and therefore do recognise different things. Means photography has something to do with seeing, which can be learned with different methods. For example by using a theme when you are going onto a photo walk. This will sensibilities you and you will come back with different results than without. How to focus on a theme I would like to describe in the following article.
Last but not least you could deal with a topic for a longer time this will change your perception.
How to focus on a theme: photo walk
Choosing a theme helps you to focus on a special topic and you will recognise motifs, which you otherwise missed. I do this from time to time and recognise after 2-3 hours, that I suddenly see only things fitting to the topic. For example with the photo walk “reflections”. In the beginning, it was hard to find motifs but was improving the longer the photo walk lasted. As we finished the photo walk suddenly I only saw reflections, even though that I was already on the way home.
The principle of picture cards is pretty simple. On the one side, you find information about the topic and a short description of how to realise it. On the other side examples, which should inspire you. You have two options in case you take images. Either you look through the cards and decide which one you are using, or, in my opinion, the more exciting, you just draw a card and just use the topic you get. In both cases, you will recognise, that it works to focus on one topic.
Deal with a topic
Especially in the last half-year, I recognise, that my way of seeing and how I take images has changed a lot. Due to the Covid pandemic, I have to work home a lot and therefore I went out during lunchtime to go through the park. Always a camera and a lens with focal length with me. The goal was to photograph local birds. In the first days, I heard the birds but was not able to see them. The more I deal with them, the more I saw the birds and was able to take images in the environment without feeding them. The highlight was, as I recognise a little bird while running on a small branch. Keen to know what it is I stopped and recognised that it was a nuthatch, which was flying to its nest.
Even if you have no studio equipment and have to stay at home, it is possible with simple tools to male photography at home. Windows are perfect light sources and with some creativity, you can even handle to hard light. But first about my image. I had the plan to shoot an espresso cup with fresh, steaming coffee. Here my result.
First I looked for a suitable window that had enough light and set up my image. A wooden board from the kitchen served as background. A piece of fabric as a black background that I found in the closet. In theory, a t-shirt, duvet, or something similar would probably work as well. Since the light through the window was too hard, I had to think of something. Since I had no alternative, I cut up sandwich bags and stuck them to the window with adhesive tape. You can see this quite well in the next picture.
On the other side, you can see a brightener that I still had at home. If you don’t have something like this at home, you can alternatively use a simple piece of white paper. Coffee is made quickly and the cup, like it, is quickly put into the image. But I quickly discovered that the steam after the fresh brewing was not strong enough to be visible in the picture. So a creative solution was needed. First I tried a match, but unfortunately, the smoke was too strong. It looked unnatural. Then my son had the idea to light a coffee bean and let it burn until it glowed. This worked very well. The advantage is that you could put the bean in peace behind the cup and the smoke lasted long enough to take a picture.
Photography at home is not rocket science, all of you do have something suitable at home. Finding a window is not a problem at all and the rest is pure creativity. Share in the comments what you have taken.