About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Freezing the Foliage : ISO Stacking

Getting ISO Right in the Digital Camera II

I know that I’m in trouble when I insist at the beginning of a blog that “This will be a short one”. It usually means that it will go on for pages, but this time, I am committed. I have a talk to prepare for the Worcester Camera Club and I have much more to do. I could always dust off one of my old talks, but my plan has been to do a new presentation covering a lot of the “Getting It Right in the Digital Camera” articles that I have been publishing of late. So, HONESTLY, this will be a brief extension of my recent “ISO Control” article. 

ISO 100 Moving Foliage
Two week ago I discussed the use of the expanded ISO range in many of our newer digital cameras and the benefits of being able to control ISO with the turn of a dial. The capability to adjust ISO as shooting situations change has provided an important new control over exposure. I have talked previously about the benefits of bracketing photos including both exposure and focus. ISO can also be bracketed in some challenging situations.

 ISO Stacking
In my landscape photography, I am often faced with trying to get broad depth of field in situations where the wind is moving the foliage.When I stop down to expand the depth of field the resulting long exposure usually leaves the foliage a blurry mess, especially in the foreground.

ISO 100, 1.3 Seconds

ISO 1600. 1/8 Seconds
One approach, which I have discussed before, is to focus bracket or stack, using
Stacked Image with Foliage Motion
"Painted out"
multiple images with a wider aperture to allow faster shutter speeds, but sometimes this isn’t enough to freeze the gyrating greenery and the shallow depth of field of each image may not fully overlap leaving gaps of soft focus. Another strategy is to capture an image with the aperture and shutter adjusted to freeze the motion with acceptable depth of field and then adjust the ISO to balance the exposure. This may only be required in the foreground image(s) where the motion is most noticeable. Greater noise reduction may be required for these slices, but they can then be stacked with the images taken at lower ISO to construct a complete picture with full DOF and sharp leaves, horses or whatever else was moving.  
For my example I am using the same image that illustrated my first ISO Control article.  The picture taken at ISO 100 and 1.3 seconds had the best image quality, but with blurred foliage, both on the foreground tree and in the background.  ISO 1600 gave me a shutter speed of 1/8 second which was sufficiently fast to freeze the movement and had good DOF at f20.   I simply stacked the ISO 1600 above the ISO 100, aligned the two with Auto-Align and then painted a mask to reveal the sharp foliage over the areas of blur.  With the use of noise reduction and the application of the high ISO image only where needed the final picture retained high image quality.

That’s IT. I told you this would be short. In this case the "best image from the camera" was actually two images at different ISOs.  Give it a try and let me know how it comes out.

OK, I can’t resist. Just one more point while we are talking about moving foliage. Another technique I use occasionally to freeze motion is based on the fact moving foliage does not all move at the same time. If you take a number of images at the same focal length you can often combine parts of each to isolate times when each region is relatively still. This is inevitably a tedious process of selective masking, but the results can be quite effective.

That’s it, I promise. Now off to Powerpoint.

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