The bellows works by increasing the distance from the back of the lens to the focal plane. The further away it is, the closer you can focus and the more you can magnify an image. But focusing is EXTREMELY critical; depth of field is measured in millimeters!
Focusing with the bellows can be done 4 ways. With the setup you see above, you can
- use the focusing ring on the lens
- zoom the lens, or
- extend or contract the bellows
I did some light tent shots yesterday, sometimes using a strobe fill, sometimes not. This series was with the strobe but dialled down considerably and through the light tent to diffuse it.
In this setup shot, the strobe is behind the black sweep, so it only illuminates the tent, not the subject. Sometimes I had the strobe further off to the right, but I don't have a setup shot of that.
As I said, focusing is tricky. I would focus using LiveView with the lens wide open so I could see, then carefully stop down without moving anything. Of course without autofocus or exposure adjustment with the bellows on, everything was manual.
I tried doing a focus stacked sequence but it didn't work. In this case I had 8 exposures but they wouldn't blend. That will be helped by the focus rail (I hope!). If anythng moves in the frame, the layers won't merge right. This was just one image:
Exposure was 2 seconds at f/11, ISO 200. Why so long? As I said, I was shooting with and without flash fill and I forgot to change the setting. If the illumination was flash only, I wouldn't have to; although there's still not a lot of light when you're shooting at f/11. You can see the depth of field when you look at the stem or the furthest petals.
Camera shake and movement is CRITICAL. I used the self-timer function, or Mirror-Up, and a cable release to trip the shutter. Do I have to say it was on a tripod?
Here's the final image:
Name that flower in 3 notes. I dunno, it's like a little daisy but it's yellow. I'm not a flower expert.
Now let me tell you what I did to get there.
I took the 8 images into CS6 and tried to focus-stack them but as I said, it didn't work. So I ended up deleting all the layers except this one. Step 1 was a hi-pass filter layer to bring up the detail. After stamping a merged layer, I opened Topaz Adjust 5 (I'm sure you figured that out when you saw the results!) and used the "Psychedelic" preset. I tweaked that some, especially doing some noise reduction. Back to CS6.
Now to get rid of the red bit and some of the background light spill. I created a mask and masked out the flower so it wouldn't affect the content-aware fill, and that's how I removed the extraneous bits. When I was done that step, I discarded the mask. In order to see what was going on with the background, I created a Levels adjustment layer and cranked it WAY up so I could see the mess in the background. I selected the flower and stem, and used the selection to mask the image, then filled what was left with black. After deleting the mask, a few strokes with a brush and the background was monolithic. Next I discarded the levels adjustment layer, it was only there for visibility.
The new crop function in CS6 is neat: I reframed the image, adding room to the left and below and filling the added portion with the same black. Then I used the healing brush and the clone stamp tool to extend the soft focused stem to the left and up. Pretty well done, I took it back into LR4, where I tweaked the crop and added a post-crop vignette, then took out a bit more of the noise. I brought the saturation up a bit and done.
Keep an eye on this blog for more: I'll add more to this tutorial as I experiment a bit more. I especially want to learn to use focus stacking and different lighting. But you can do this stuff on a budget if you want to.
PS: for more images and writeups, it's probably better to subscribe to my other blog – www.faczen.blogspot.com – or drop in to see it regularly. I post there every week, whereas this one is more sporadic. For instance, the lily in the setup picture is going to be interesting but I haven't finished it yet. It will be on the Faczen Image blog.
Edit: I added this picture to give you an example of the scale you can achieve with the bellows. This is not cropped.
This is nowhere near the maximum magnification. I guess the bellows was about 1/3 of the way out, the lens was zoomed to about 70mm, I think.