Wilted Sunflower

A test of using flash for macrophotography

This is a sunflower that Donna was tossing out since it had wilted pretty badly. I thought it looked cool, and set it up with a couple of flashes to try my hand at using flash to illuminate macro photographs.

Technical info: This was one of two sets that I took. One was brighter: f/5.6 and 1/500th of a second. The depth of focus wasn’t sufficient, so I reshot the same sequence at f/8.

This technique, combining multiple images with different focus settings, is called “focus merge” or “focus stacking.” There are a handful of programs that will do the heavy lifting, but typically you have to do some manual cleanup. I’ll do an overview of the process sometime.

As you can see from the various shadows in the background, I have some work to do to design a proper setup for flash photography.

But the detail captures by the camera and lens are amazingly sharp. I used the 120mm f/4 Schneider-Kreuznach macro lens on the Phase One XF. There were two speed lights: one typical for 35mm cameras, and one that is smaller and about half as bright for the background.

The 120mm f/4 is a super-sharp lens. Please click on the image above to view it at full size (the JPG is 100%), and take a look at the fine detail. If your screen isn’t large enough, click a second time to zoom in.

The square middle is real; I don’t know why it turned out that way. I don't recall seeing a sunflower like that before.

There are 12 images in the set. I used the “move focus a lot” button to change focus from exposure to exposure, and the size of that step was too large for f/5.6; it left fuzzy gaps. It was perfect for the thicker focal plane that comes with f/8.