Focus Stacking an Okefenokee Gator Stack

Four young juvenile American Alligators laying on logs in the blackwater cypress swamp. Minnie`s Lake, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 10, 2020. © Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from

While paddling through the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, I came upon an awesome scene. Multiple juvenile alligators were stacked upon logs and lily pads in a small cove on Minnie’s Lake. My eyes took in the whole scene and I was overwhelmed with delight and wonder. But my joy was replaced with a bit of sadness because I knew the limitations of photography would hinder capturing the scene.

One young alligator lay close to my canoe, while three gators were stacked on a fallen cypress further back in the scene. This was a problem, for, in photography terms, they were in different focal planes. If I focused on the three alligators up on the log, the one near me would be out of focus. And if I trained my lens upon the gator close by my canoe, the triplets on the log would be blurred. So my little brain ticked away and I decide to take multiple shots and see if I could “focus stack” them later.

American Alligator on Minnie`s Lake, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 10, 2020. © Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from

One source states, “Focus stacking is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images.” In simpler terms, you take one photo with the foreground in focus and combine it with another photo with the background in focus. The two (or more) photos are “stacked” in layers in the processing software and a final image is produced that has the entire scene in focus.

Ideally, you want to have the camera secured without movement on a tri-pod so each photograph is identical in composition. I was in a moving canoe, and had to do the best I could. Although it was more of a challenge to combine the photos, it worked out fairly well with my alligator scene. Still, a photograph just can’t replace the immensity of the moment… alligators on the left, alligators on the right, a breeze blowing through the Spanish Moss, the buzz of dragonflies, and the gentle current of the Suwannee River as it flows through the Okefenokee Swamp. You just have to be there!

iNaturalist observation:

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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