Frozen in time

snowflake photo stacking interview with Don Komarechka

In interview, Tutorial by Who Said Photography

Who Said:
Many Photographer refer to close-up photography as the photographing of small subjects. In reality, It’s photographing small subjects larger than their actual size.Unknown Artist

Watch Bob from” Who Said Photography” talk to” Mr. Macro” Don Komarechka. Don is a well-known Canadian Macro Photographer. Don Komarechka is the author of the book “Sky Crystals- Unraveling the Mysteries of Snowflakes.” He is about to show us how he does his snowflake photo stacking technique.
Hopefully, everybody knows what photo stacking is. It’s the technique, where you take multiple images, each at a different ‘focus point’. What! Why do this? You combine the images together to extend the focus. This technique is called photo stacking or focus stacking and Don uses this technque for each snowflake image he put together. Either way, the terms are interchangeable. We have talked about the macro photography before. One of the biggest challenges that ‘Macro photographers’ face is the short depth of field. You can never get enough. The closer and closer we get to the subject, the shallower your depth of field is going to be. There is no way around that. You get incredibly soft edges due to diffraction. You have to take those little slivers, those little slices of focus area’s and combine them together to get an incredible focused image. Some subjects are too transient. They are there one second and gone the next, and it’s never at the same place twice. In summer macro is tough to do as with any stacking work. Why? Things are constantly in motion. If you have a static subject or at least a relatively static subject, focus stacking can allow you to combine all the separate images together to create something unique, more than the camera would ever be able to capture in one image alone. As for snowflake photography, you don’t have a lot of time to work with, you’ve got to be quick because the flakes melt rapidly.
When I say focus stacking, I’m talking about using hundred of pictures. You are not combining 2,5, 10, or 15 photos. You’re combining average between 40 and 50 separate images. The most Don’s done is about 70, but because he is shooting this handheld, it’s adding a lot more complexity to the whole scenario. You need to work fast. The snowflakes are actively melting or sublimating and evaporating. They are disappearing in front of your eyes. A minute goes by, and the flakes on the tips of the branches are gone. You have to get in, find exactly the right angle as quickly as possible and shoot, shoot. One might shoot over a minute or two and collect 200 images of the same snowflake, then have to go through and choose which of that 200 meets your needs. Don has doubled up on some of them, but he had to hedge his bets because he won’t know if he has gotten every slice that is needed. If he only took 50 images, he might have taken two of the same size and missed one. He always overshoots, then goes through and find the pictures, that match to the different pieces of the puzzle, then he would go through and complete that process.

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