Helicon Focus and the snake

Helicon Focus and the snake

No animals were hurt in the creation of this article. My wife always keeps an eye out for interesting subjects from our yard. This little Ground Snake which eats bugs, scorpions, crickets and more was in this exact position when it passed away. Not sure if it drowned or what, but it made for an interesting subject.

Different backgrounds

When I brought the snake into the studio I wasn’t sure what the final image would look like. Experimentation time! Yay! I enjoy trying to create something interesting with whatever subject I am working.

The snake was placed on a clear sheet of glass with a white card below and white reflector card opposite the main light.

In this case, I chose a piece of glass with a white card underneath and the opposite, a black piece of plastic for background choices. I wanted to use a single light and see what the possibilities were.

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Snake on black plastic with little reflection from the white card.

The kit

I used a single light, a Zhiyun Molus X100 with a small reflector and a small circular rubber diffuser. Check my review of the X100 here. A white card was used for fill.

I equipped the M.Zuiko 60mm Olympus macro lens on my OM-D E-M1 Mark III. I mounted the camera on a Platyball Elite with a Platypod eXtreme as a base allowed me to get in close to the subject.

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Single image straight out of camera. Because I had such a scarred platform, I did a bit of Photoshop work. Dust and Scratches filter along with some Gaussian Blur smoothed out the surface in the final images. I selected and processed and sharpened the snake separately.

The snake and Helicon Focus

FYI the Ground Snake was about 6 inches long and was in approximately this position when we found it on our driveway. You would think focus stacking would not be necessary. But using a macro lens at a medium aperture made this project work. The E-M1 Mark III has a built in focus stacking system. I set the capture for 55 images and with one push of the shutter they were all captured in RAW format. A pro tip is to place something just in front of your subject to set focus to ensure full focus on the image. Before I started doing that sometimes the front of the subject was just a wee bit soft.

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Screenshot of the Helicon Focus window while the software is finding and blending all the sharp bits. I used Method C to blend 55 images for the final shot.

Final images

I ended up with three different backgrounds using only the single light and two surfaces. The white background was obvious. Changing the angle of the white fill card differentiated the two black backgrounds. The single main light stayed in the same position for all photos.

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Final snake image with a lighter grey/black gradient background. Raising and tilting the fill light higher allowed me to achieve this shot.

As always if you have any thoughts or comments drop them down below.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob