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Dandelion Study 02
Cambo Actus DB II, Phase One IQ4 150MP, 150mm Schneider Symmar-S, f8 @ 1/4 second, ISO 50

Over the past month of incarceration, err, lock down, I've talked to quite a few photographers, many of whom have been diligently tackling little projects at home to keep themselves occupied. Photographs of flowers, ice, smoke, kitchen utensils. And I have some great articles being prepared for the next issue of Better Photography which will reveal some of these. But I digress...

Talking to these photographers reminded me of a long term project (one of many) and I no longer had any excuses: still life of flowers.

And if you wonder what a dandelion looks like when shot on 150MP, check out the end of this article where you can zoom in to 100% on four of the files.

A year or so ago, I bought a Cambo Actus DB II view camera with a long rail and bellows so I could use a 600mm Nikkor, but the rail and bellows would be equally useful for close-ups. And possibly 40 years ago, I bought a secondhand 150mm Symmar S large format lens which was remarkable sharp, even if its multi-coating is rather agricultural by today's standards. So, I was camera ready. (Another option was to pull out my Fujifilm X-T4 and use the 60mm macro lens I bought with the original Fujifilm X-Pro1 - like all good photographers, I hoard my gear!)

Next jigsaw piece: Surfing through Instagram a few years ago, I saw a little product cube with LED lights advertised for $30, so you could shoot high quality product shots, and that's been sitting on my bookcase shelf ever since, used but once. It was perfect for small flowers and, guess what, the lawn mower guys missed a couple of dandelions and I finally found myself in my home study, shooting close ups with some wonderfully even light.

And it was a lot of fun. My first thought was to photograph a single dandelion, but since there were three outside the back door, sitting quietly at different heights, I picked them all. 

Naturally, depth-of-field with close-up photography is challenging, so my solution was to focus stack. However, while I wanted the front flower to be sharp, I was happy to leave the background blooms soft and blurry, so the trick is to focus stack with a wider aperture so depth-of-field doesn't bring the background blooms into focus too quickly.

I shot up to 45 frames at half millimetre intervals, or around 20 frames at one millimetre intervals and I haven't worked out whether one is better than the other or just a waste of time. However, when I enlarge the image, I can see some blurring here and there. Two reasons: any movement of the dandelion would create double exposures (and although my study door was closed, perhaps I was moving sufficiently to cause a problem); and second, the lens might not be up to the resolution of the camera. Actually there's a third - maybe I need to focus stack with even more steps - who knows, and who cares just at the moment, because I like what I have created.

To focus stack, I processed the raw files as 16-bit TIFFs and used Helicon Focus to put them together, then finished off in Photoshop, using the red channel for my monochrome conversion.

To enjoy the photos below, click on one and it will open up in this window. Click again and again to enlarge it, and then use the arrows to move to the next photo. Have a click around - you'll get the idea soon enough!

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