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When photographing flowers, leaves, insects, seedpods, etc., the air has to be perfectly still. When I photographed the Indian paintbrush flowers (#8) I did so at dawn because often the air is very still. The tropical leaves I captured (#9) were in a very dark environment and my exposure was 20 seconds. In this kind of situation, in order to get the depth of field necessary to reveal all of the beautiful detail I had to choose a sheltered environment that protected my subject from any kind of movement.

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Software Aid
There is another way to manipulate depth of field that is relatively new. It is a digital technique that revolutionizes the way photographers approach macro photography, and at the same time it applies to telephoto compositions of landscapes and other stationary subjects. The software program is called Helicon Focus.

The way it works is that you take several pictures of a subject—anything not moving—from a tripod. Each time you take a picture, you re-focus the lens from the furthest point in the composition to the closest point near the camera in very small increments. It doesn’t matter how many shots you take. I’ve done as many as 22, but usually you can get away with less. My average number of exposures is about 10-12. The software then assembles all the pictures and uses only the sharpest plane of focus from each photo so the resulting composite is perfectly focused throughout. What is amazing is that if you use a long lens, you still get the telephoto compression but everything is tack sharp from front to back. Here is a website where you can download a 30-day demo: www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html.

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Look at the macro shots of a katydid (#10 and #11). Both of them were taken at f/8. This image (#10) was a single exposure and it shows depth of field that is quite shallow. The next image (#11) has complete depth of field up to the rear of the insect. I took 12 exposures that were assembled in Helicon Focus to produce a tack sharp photo up to the point I wanted sharp. I purposely didn’t include focused images on the background because the out of focus foliage background is complementary and directs our attention to the subject better than if it was sharply defined.

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