It can sometimes be a challenge to photograph blossoms such as water lilies… from a distance… and still get the entire flower in focus. Often we don’t have the physical access needed to get close to subject flowers. As a result we can be forced to use a longer focal length telephoto zoom lens for our compositions. This can create depth-of-field challenges.
I recently visited the Royal Botanical Gardens with the intent of photographing some water lilies. These blossoms are situated in two rectangular display ponds. Depending on the shooting angle chosen the flowers are approximately 2.4 to 4.7 metres (7.9 to 15.4 feet) away from the edge of the walkway that surrounds the ponds.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
From a photographic style standpoint we all have our own approach when it comes to blossoms. Some folks like to use shallow depth-of-field, while others like to have the entire blossom in focus. One approach isn’t better than another, but is simply a difference in creative interpretation.
If we examine the EXIF data for the image above we can see that the subject distance was 2.8 metres (~9.2 feet). A focal length of 276 mm was used along with an aperture of f/8. These shooting parameters would create a depth of field of 2.23 centimetres, or slightly less than 1 inch. The two blossoms illustrated were much deeper than that so if I wanted both blossoms to be in focus those camera settings were not going to get the job done for me.
I had the option to stop my lens down further to f/16 or f/22. Even at f/22 that would only increase my depth of field to 6.3 centimetres… or about 2.5 inches. This still would not have been deep enough to create my desired depth-of-field. Plus, I would have run the risk of some potential image softness caused by diffraction when shooting at f/22..
The solution was to shoot handheld using my E-M1X’s in-camera focus stacking technology. I used my standard settings of 10 focus stacked images with a focus differential of 4. The out-of-camera result was a jpeg. I could have chosen to do additional work in post by using software to do the focus stacking for me. For my purposes the quality of the out-of-camera jpeg was completely acceptable.
Let’s have a look at a few more images of blossoms from a distance. In all cases I shot handheld and used in-camera focus stacking to create these photographs. Out-of-camera jpegs are illustrated.
The photograph above is another example of when the shooting parameters of a focal length of 236 mm at f/8. with a subject distance of 2.4 metres (~7.9 feet) would have created a depth of field of 2.24 centimetres, or less than 1 inch. This was far less than what was required to get the entire blossom in focus.
The image of the white blossom above was captured using -1.0 EV exposure compensation to help reduce the risk of blown out highlights. This example of blossoms from a distance was 3.9 metres away (~12.8 feet). A focal length of 400 mm was used with an aperture of f/8. These shooting parameters would create depth-of-field of 2.05 centimeters, or about 3/4 of an inch… obviously not sufficient enough to get the entire blossom in focus.
The above example of blossoms from a distance was 2.8 metres away (~9.2 feet). A focal length of 400 mm was used along with an aperture of f/8. These shooting parameters create a depth-of-field of only 1.01 centimeters… or about 0.4 inches. This is far too shallow for the entire blossom to be in focus.
Our final sample images was situated 4.7 metres away (~15.4 feet). A focal length of 361 mm was used, along with an aperture of f/8. These shooting parameters create depth-of-field of 3.76 centimeters, or about 1.5 inches. And, once again too shallow for my photographic objective. As with the other sample images, using handheld in-camera focus stacking provided a practical solution.
Handheld in-camera focus stacking is wonderful technology that can be used for a range of subject matter. I most often use it when shooting handheld macro images. It is always good when I remind myself that this technology can be a wonderful solution when I want deeper depth-of-field in a composition… but do not want to stop my lens down too far as to risk diffraction.
Photographing blossoms from a distance is one of those situations where handheld in-camera focus stacking works very well.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs using my standard process. This is the 1,294 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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