After joining the Allan Walls macro community I became aware of stereo imaging due to a challenge being set and a great introductory tutorial. So I threw myself into a new challenge as its just the type of photography I can do from home when Im not managing to do much.
To start with I tried photographing 3 focus stacks of the same subject - ( a taxidermy insect specimen or flower) where I rotated the subject aprox 4-8 degrees between the stacks. When viewed side by side this should produce a 3D image and I was pleasantly surprised when my results paid off very quickly. Although at first I was unaware that if the images are placed in the wrong order the 3D image can appear as if its going away from you rather that the goal of it coming towards you.
Now getting everything prepared, set up, lighting right, the focus stacking done correctly, then the lengthy process of stacking images in appropriate software followed by finely detailed editing to ensure each image is edited precisely the same is not for the faint hearted. I have had to learn about taxidermy insect specimens, where to obtain them, how to clean and relax and position them, followed by the fiddly process of setting them up for photos. Then the lighting can take time as many of these subjects can be super shiny, requiring several layers of diffusion material to avoid specular highlights, plus mini reflectors made from foil to lighten up the areas light doesnt reach. All this within a very tight space, often with the lens within inches of the subject.
I have now changed from using Michaels Z6 and using my own Sony A7iii on my new WeMacro automated rail which I do prefer for focus stacking - this is controlled on my phone. I feel that almost all my focus stacking works well with this set up, where previously I often had errors in the stacks.
I am using a variety of lens but mostly my Sony 90mm macro lens, sometimes with extension tubes, and sometimes with a Raynox 250. My other main choice of lens is my new Canon MPE 65 MPE, which is taking a bit of getting use to, but is giving me great results. This requires an adapter to fit my camera and I have had some minor issues with connectivity, but Im persevering.
Now that I have had a couple of months practicing the techniques I think Im ready to attempt getting more adventurous with my set ups and will try to add in more depth, using both insects and layers of flowers. Ultimately I want to do this to give lots of depth and interest, loads of details but whilst retaining some of the out of focus bokeh that I love. So its a journey to see what I can create.
If you are new to stereo photography I will warn you that not everyone is able to view these easily, some people can only see the 3D image with a 3D stereoscopic viewer. I'm very lucky, I can easily defocus my eyes and see most stereo pairs within seconds. At first I found that crossing my eyes and bringing the images closer to my eyes then very slowly moving the images away, helped me to see the 3D version. Sometimes I find it easier on my computer, sometimes on my phone.
What I love is seeing macro images that 2-5x life size as stereo pairs as these show depth and detail like I have not seen before, this excites me and is what is pushing me to create more.
I have since come across Brian May's website where I am learning a bit more about this genre, here he encourages people to try creating stereo pairs using mobile phones and a dedicated app - something I intend to try soon. I have purchased a pair of his owl viewers but neither my partner nor I can see the stereo images using these. His websites contain many other useful links and I am working my way through these to learn more. I've not found many photographers using this technique in focus stacking macro photos, but hoping to soon as it will be good to connect with more who are interested in it.
As for editing the pairs of focus stacked images - this can take hours if the insects are not pristine. If they are not edited identically this can throw off the stereo effect and it just wont work properly.
Watch this space for more this year as its a project I intend to work on all year. I would love to hear your thoughts on this project and any suggestion in the comments or in a message on social media. - EDIT a couple of days after writing this someone suggested that it may be easier for people to view the 3D images if I presented them as 3 images and yes, more people who could not see the 3D version with two images can now see them for the first time. So at the bottom I have added the triple image versions.