Emerging From Darkness

It can be an enjoyable creative experiment to produce a series of images in keeping with a theme like Emerging From Darkness. Using a mirrorless camera system for this type of creative execution is ideal since we can see how our images will look in real time without any guesswork. Obviously this is important when purposely underexposing images.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4.5, 1/250, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking, cropped to 4774 pixels on the width, subject distance 270 mm

All of the photographs featured in this article were captured handheld using an OM-D E-M1X and an M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. The in-camera focus stacking technology resident in my E-M1X was used with a focusing differential of 4, and with the number of focus stacked images set to 10. I kept my ISO constant at base ISO-200 and used shutter speeds that ranged from a high of 1/320 to a low of 1/8. Aperture settings ranged from f/4 to f/8.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Regardless of the camera gear that we may happen to own and use, it is important to understand our equipment’s capabilities, and how we can apply them to create the photographs that are in our mind’s eye.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/8, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

All of these Emerging From Darkness images were created within a 90 minute timeframe, during a recent visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/100 ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

While a theme like Emerging From Darkness can make for an enjoyable photographic outing… it is also a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery that we are on during our lifetime.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

We all begin our time here leaving the warmth and security of our mother’s body. Although there is no memory of those first independent moments… they must be truly shocking as we are being thrust out into a cold, foreign world. So shocking that we immediately seek comfort and support. Some of us never leave these comfort and support yearnings behind, and end up failing to fully mature as individuals.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/6.3, 1/50, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

If we are fortunate, our parents provide for both our physical and emotional needs in ways that allow us to discover ourselves and grow. We are born as blank slates… only to be written upon and moulded by our parents. Sometimes we are taught to appreciate nature and value all living things around us. We may learn the importance of equanimity in what can be a harsh and tumultuous world. The relative strength of our moral compass is created.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/320, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Some of us have dogma thrust upon us, and are taught to hate by our parents and so-called friends. We are sometimes encouraged to be intolerant of others who we deem to be different than ourselves. Racism, misogyny and homophobia can take over our everyday lives. We may exist in weakness and fear, spending our lives lashing out at others. Our human potential can be lost in a raging sea of emotions that are manipulated by others.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Tribalism and xenophobia can dominate our lives.  It may result in us having no sense of self… and no appreciation that potential to affect positive change in our lives even exists. Emerging From Darkness in these situations can become increasingly difficult the longer we are exposed to a toxic environment… and for some… impossible.

Like quicksand, we may become totally enveloped. Not by  ovular grains of sand… but by hatred, fear and weakness. In extreme cases we become so divorced from our human potential it is like we were stillborn.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Emerging From Darkness takes personal strength and courage. It takes courage to constantly question the dogma that we’ve been incessantly pressured to blindly accept. It takes personal strength to look inside ourselves to identify our core values and see how those values guide our behaviour. Then to take ownership of our less-than-desirable traits, and to commit to self-development.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/50, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Our talents, skills and passions may lie dormant under a blanket of self-doubt. Emerging From Darkness allows us to celebrate our gifts and use them to make positive contributions. As we begin to enter the light of our lives, we can learn to radiate it back to others.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/10, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

An important stage of Emerging From Darkness is to identify our own weaknesses and acts of selfishness. These moments of self-awareness can provide the fuel for personal growth and deepen self-understanding. They can help stop the never ending illusions of self-importance that hold us back… and fuel our selfishness.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4.5, 1/60, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Emerging From Darkness puts us on a path to seek understanding rather than leaping to judgement. We can learn to dispassionately observe the behaviours of ourselves and others as the true measure of intent. Words can be hollow and self-serving. Examined actions are laid bare on the anvil of truth.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

At birth we’re each given a token for a ride on the merry-go-round of life. Not everyone decides to ride it fully and joyfully. None of us knows when that token will come due… and when we’ll have to hand it back in. There’s no escaping that eventuality.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

For many of us, Emerging From Darkness is a journey of self-discovery that never completely provides all of the answers or understanding we seek. Our token often comes due before that happens. Even if that’s the case… it is still an incredible journey to pursue and experience. We only have one opportunity to do so.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera focus stacked jpeg images using my standard approach in post. I used handheld in-camera focusing stacking with the Focus Differential set to 4 and the number of focus stacked frames to 10. A single auto-focusing point was engaged. This is the 1,224 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

How you can help keep this site advertising free

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated.

Our eBooks include Images of Ireland, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip, Nikon 1: The Little Camera That Could, Desert & Mountain Memories, Images of Greece, Nova Scotia Photography Tour, and a business leadership parable… Balancing Eggs.

If you click on the Donate button below you will find that there are three donation options: $7.50, $10.00 and $20.00. All are in Canadian funds. Plus, you can choose a different amount if you want. You can also increase your donation amount to help offset our costs associated with accepting your donation through PayPal. An ongoing, monthly contribution to support our work can also be done through the PayPal Donate button below.

You can make your donation through your PayPal account, or by using a number of credit card options.

Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

Article and images Copyright 2022 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

7 thoughts on “Emerging From Darkness”

  1. Tom: Some of the images in this article are beautiful, the others are extraordinary in their artistic and technical achievement. This article extends the technical discussion begun in an earlier article, “Purposeful Underexposure,” Yes, the evidence is clear: Purposeful underexposure can yield beautiful images. Would you extend your discussion to compare your approach using in-camera focus stacking, producing a jpeg image, with an alternative method using full (to the right) exposure followed by reduction of brightness in post, producing a raw image? The thesis being that full exposure in the linear range of raw images yields improved SNR and exactly the same image as your method when exposure is reduced in post.

    1. Hi Nathaniel,

      My preference is to always get as close to the vision in my mind’s eye with the initial exposure of an image as possible in-camera. I’ve found that this allows me to get to my finished image with a minimum of additional work in post. I much prefer seeing my potential under exposure in real-time and in-camera rather than mucking around in post with it later on. I’ve always acknowledged with my readers that I absolutely hate spending time in post. I typically spend a maximum of about 3 minutes in post for most of the images that appear on my website. As a result I’m probably the worst person to ask for a comparison of the techniques noted in your comment.

      Whether creating this image by using ETTR in RAW format would eventually yield the same image as I was able to achieve with under exposing a handheld in-camera focus stacked jpeg is a moot point to me. I got to where I wanted with the images featured in this article very quickly and very easily. I’ve come to love using handheld in-camera focusing stacking for flower photography to the point where I don’t even think about shooting flowers in RAW.


    2. Hi Nathaniel,

      I forgot to mention that I often purposely choose blossoms that are in harsh, direct sunlight and are surrounded by quite dark backgrounds. This would make the potential use of ETTR more difficult.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *