Using Focus Bracketing and Stacking in Landscape Photography
Focus bracketing and stacking is often considered the purview of the macro photographer since macro lenses have notoriously shallow depths of field. It is used far less often by landscape photographers and that is unfortunate since it can allow you to present the scene in front of you in ways that you could never really see with the naked eye. It is a technique that I am using more and more often in my landscape work.
When composing many of my landscape images, my goal is to draw the viewer into the photograph by having multiple subjects framed in such a way as to provide strong foreground and background elements. The image below is such an example. The main subject is the waterfall, while the leaves, log, and rushing water are secondary subjects that add interest to the shot and hopefully lead the eye toward the main subject.
It was important to have sharp focus throughout the image so I positioned my camera about a meter from the foreground elements, focused about 1/3 of the way into the frame and used a relatively small aperture. This gave me the depth of field I needed. But what if I wanted to put my camera much closer to my foreground, let's say a few inches from the leaves. Would I still be able to achieve sharpness throughout the image? Nope! Not in a single shot, even when shooting at the smallest aperture. This is when I turn to focus bracketing and stacking.
Using Natural Framing to Improve your Compositions
Using a natural frame can dramatically improve your compositions, and it's a technique that I use quite often in my photography. While 'working a scene' I will try a variety of compositional techniques. I don't usually start by using a natural frame, but there are many cases where adding that frame improves the overall look that I'm trying to capture. Here is a case in point;
It was a beautiful June morning with a bit of mist hanging in the air. I took the short drive from my home to a meadow with an old barn in it, thinking this would be the perfect location. It certainly had potential. For my first shot I created a simple composition - grasses in the foreground, the barn in the distance and the early morning sun illuminating the mist hanging over the field.
I looked at the LCD, and was far from impressed with the shot. How could I make the scene before me more interesting? I looked over my right shoulder, saw some large maple trees and thought, maybe I could use those trees to improve the composition. I took a quick walk to the edge of the forested hillside, found some branches that were nicely arching overhead and recomposed.
Now this image I liked! And it’s in large part due to the natural frame.
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.