Monday, 3 May 2010

Heck, Helicon - you're good!

Above: Ex Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 'Pug' No. 51202 shunts the wharf sidings at Combwich in early October 1955.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been messing about with Helicon Focus, the inexpensive layer stacking software, which when combined with photographs specifically taken for it can extend depth of field enourmously - in fact pretty well as much as you'd like!

The shot above was taken on a 'point and shoot' Canon G9, one of the more recent relatively inexpensive small cameras aimed at the enthusiast photographer - of course any camera could be used, but I want to highlight the fact that you didn't need anything big and posh, because technique is the all important thing rather than kit.

At this level of closeup the loco is probably bigger on your screen here than in real life if you click on the image then select 'all sizes' to reveal a decent sized view. It's not going to be possible to get everything in focus; so by shooting a few identical frames, but focussed on key spots, and then with the aid of Helicon Focus to combine the images one can create a greater depth of field. For this particular shot, three identical photographs were taken, the first focussed on the buffers, the second on the cab, and the final on the rear of the red van. The software then takes care of the rest on the computer - simple!

The sky however was added in post production, it's far prettier than the wardrobe that was behind the section layout which was on the floor simply bathed in natural window light!


  1. Question, if you are using a point and shoot camera how are you altering the focus point? Is it not defined by "centre" which would suggest you would have to alter the position of the camera to alter the frame centre/point of focus. Or does your camera allow defintion of focus within the frame?

  2. Yes you are correct, I rotate the camera on its axis (using a small bean bag) to set the focus on the required area. I use the self timer which then gives you time to reposition the camera - the focus remaining locked from when the shutter was pressed.

    The software is very clever, adusting for slight rotational errors and cropping differneces between shots. Care must be taken, if the camera is moved laterally too much it might not work. If unsure use a tripod.

  3. Thanks I have given it a try and it works !!!



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