Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

May-June 2008

Tip of the Month

More on the Helicon Focus Filter

Although I've reported on the Helicon Focus Filter previously, on our Arizona High Speed Flash Photography Shoots I had an opportunity to once again play with the filter and create some exciting shots. As you may recall, in my previous discussion about the filter I mentioned how your subject must be motionless while you're shooting, otherwise the sharp edges may not match up. That certainly still holds true, but let me point out some points when doing composing and laying out the images.

I shot a series of approximately 8 shots of this large desert wolf spider, 'rolling' the focus from the pebbles in the foreground to the last leg segment of the spider. If you look carefully, the image actually seems to have shifted. You'll note a small rectangular piece of wood next to the left front leg (the right side in this spider) is a bit higher up in the frame, and there are more foreground pebbles in the image on the right.

The finished image nonetheless corrected for this and the finished image was sharp throughout. There were a few artifacts that appeared in the out-of-focus area behind the spider, but simple cloning corrected for that. It's important to keep the camera rock steady as you roll the focus, otherwise the chance of misregistry is definitely increased. Lighting needs to be consistent, too, and if you're using flash -- as I was for shooting the spider, pace yourself so that the flash has time to recylce fully between each image. Otherwise, if one or more shots aren't fully exposed, you might have gaps in the focused area, and that won't work either.

About eight shots were used for this glossy snake. The three included shows the head, mid-body and tail area, and the background. You can clearly see the differences in focus between the first and last image, with foreground sharp in one, soft in another, and the same for the background. Snakes pose another problem, and that is, if the snake is stressed or excited it might breathe deeply, and its body size will flucuate between shots. If that's the case, either wait until the snake calms down, or shoot fast, trying to time your shots between breaths of the snake.

I haven't had the opportunity, yet, to shoot a snake stretched out perpendicularly to me, so that its head is at the closest point and its tail at the furthest point. The Helicon Focus filter will do it, provided I can get a snake to sit still long enough!



Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


DEC - A solution to the Digital Dilemma
Western Digital portable external Hard Drives

CS3 Upgrade

Framing with a Telephoto Against a Desert Sunrise

Adobe Photoshop LIGHTROOM
Workflow and Workload - You Can Keep Ahead
Bring along a Point N Shoot

Backing Up Your Digital Files - you'll need more than you think
Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings
maximizing depth of field digitally
Capture 1's Most Useful Features
DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values
Effective Cloning in Adobe CS2

Watch Your Backgrounds - The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format
DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future
DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II
The Helicon Focus Filter Revisited



Smell the Roses
Frankly access your skills before deciding upon a workshop

The Songs of Insects
- a super book on katydids, cicadas, and grasshoppers
A Great Insect Field Guide 
Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings
The Pond-A Must-See shooting Location in southern Arizona
Don't take in baby wild animals
Seize the Moment!
Take a Workshop First
  Luck, what is it?
At the Pulse of Life by Fritz Polking
Carry-on Luggage for small commuter flights


Two Sturdy, Light-weight tripod heads by AcraTech
Lens Coat equipment covers
The Ultimate Long Lens Case - McDonald Safari Bag
Positioning your Roll-on Carry-On bag
New Lens Covers for Long Lenses
The Best All-Around Lens
Keep Your Head Up
Save Your Equipment from Crashing!
The L-Bracket, the ultimate camera bumper
Visual Echos Tele-Flash for the 580EX Flash
Testing your Flash's Aim
The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds
Specular highlights and the flashing frog

Geared Focusing Rail for Macro Work
Shooting in Inclement Weather
Low level tripod work
Sighting in a very, very long lens
Padding Your WimberleyTripod Head
Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate
How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari
How do you shoot the Moon?

If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation
Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!
A great depth of field guide
Carry Your Gear!
Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters
Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO zoom telephoto lens


A Car Tip that could Save Your Life
A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society
Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

Ask Questions Before You Go
Liquids in your Levels - TSA Warnings!

Disconnect -- travel precautions
Photograph America Newsletter
Obey the Rules
Wildlife Portraiture
Drying out boots with newspaper
Removing Cactus Spines

The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites
The Sibley Bird Guides



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