Focus Stacked Feather Capture with Joey Terrill

Words by Joey Terrill - A Platypod Pro 
Edited by Eryka Bagwell


"This tiny feather is about the size of my pinky finger, so small platforms, small lights and small clamps were the perfect choice. Photographic style is very personal and every photographer makes choices about what they shoot and how they shoot it—but a simple, yet flexible setup almost always leads to less frustration and better images."

"One of the advantages of setting up a shot this way is that the entire set can be moved as a unit. I placed everything on top of a wooden box so that I could move it around relative to the camera without changing the lighting setup. A set like this can be built in a garage, a basement, or even on a kitchen table."

"The lighting is VERY simple and only uses battery-powered LED lights. The main light is a small panel that produces light similar to a soft box and is what reveals the beautiful color of the feather. This small cube light positioned slightly behind the feather is revealing the texture of the barbs and also creating two dimensions on the edges of the feather. By carefully positioning the back light, I was able to allow some of it to spill out onto the black background to create some depth to the final image capture."

"Even at this small scale, light control is super important. The white downy barbs could easily be overexposed, so I used a piece of black construction paper held in place with a gooseneck arm and a clamp to block some of the light. I used another arm and clamp attached to some aluminum foil to reflect a bit of light back on to the feather on the opposite side of the LED panel to fill in the shadows and create an additional highlight on the quill."

"I chose the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S on the Z 8 camera so that I had plenty of room between the front of the lens and the feather. That working distance allowed me to position the lights and reflectors, and not have the lens get in the way or cast a shadow on the feather."

"The only sure way to hold focus at this magnification is through focus stacking. Focus stacking is a process of capturing a series of images—all focused on a different part of the subject—and then merging them together to create a single image that is precisely sharp anywhere you want precise focus. The 97 captures of the feather were all made automatically in-camera and it took less that 30 seconds to capture all 97."

"After some tone and contrast adjustments in the RAW processor, I moved the 97 images over to a program called Helicon Focus which assembled the final image. The software automatically builds a mask to isolate the sharply focused pixels from each capture, and then layer by layer, it builds the final, completely focused image."

"Feathers are a fun subject because each one has a unique color and texture—AND, they can be explored for as long as you wish."

If you'd like to view more of Joey's extraordinary work, visit his Instagram or his website by clicking either link here.



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