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.
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!