Castel-Micro & Focus Stacking

In the photographic world, we often strive to achieve a shallow depth of field for several reasons. For example, separating the subject from its background to give it more prominence making it much easier to keep the viewers’ attention. Or, to reduce an obtrusive background which can detract from the subject. In order to achieve this, we sometimes use large aperture lenses often shooting wide open to create this effect.

In the world of macro photography, it’s completely different. Depth of field is one of the biggest issues since photographing subject’s that are small means having to work at much closer distances. Retaining sharpness throughout the subject being photographed depends on two factors, magnification and the aperture value. Wider apertures produce less depth of field while smaller apertures allow us to retain more of the subject in focus up to a point depending on the magnification chosen. Even shooting at smaller apertures, for example, F/16 does not necessarily guarantee complete sharpness. There are also trade-offs for using smaller apertures diffraction being the most obvious one, which can cause a reduction in sharpness and detail.

Since the evolution of digital photography and advancements in software technology, it is now possible to overcome many of the problems often faced by macro photographers. Focus Stacking or Extended Depth of field is one of the advantages we have at our disposal. I should point out from the start that it is not the answer and solution in every single case. It largely depends on what you are trying to achieve. It is not always necessary to have complete sharpness in an image for several reasons. For example, you may want to create an artistic interpretation and the choice aperture is important. Also, mobile subjects such as insects present a greater challenge when employing focus stacking. Trying to capture multiple images of a moving creature brings its own frustrations.

Recently I have been testing and reviewing the Castel-Micro; a motorized focusing rail developed by Novoflex. There are many advantages to using a motorized rail, especially when working at higher magnifications. It can deliver great accuracy in controlled focus advancement and continuity in focus overlap producing images with fewer artefacts for software to correct. Another advantage is you do not have to touch the camera assembly during the process therefore reducing the risk of movement during the stack sequence. Photographing at magnifications beyond 1:1 opens up a whole new world of subjects that would be much more challenging to photograph at higher magnifications doing it manually.

The Castel-Micro in my opinion is an excellent product and takes much of the guesswork out of focus stacking. If you want to explore magnifications beyond life-size then using a motorized rail will make the process much easier. To read the full review of the Castel-Micro click here.

Below are some of the examples photographed with the Novoflex Castel-micro.

Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare.
A tiny specimen growing on a mossy stump. It was barely 1cm in height. Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:55.
Mycena abramsii. A relatively common fungi found in small groups attached to decaying wood. Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 200mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:50.
Frosted Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica cones. The continuing low temperatures at night are providing subjects that would appear ordinary in normal conditions, but the added layer of frost adds an extra dimension to the image. Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:40.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Hybrid. Close-up view of the callus area of the flower. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 70.
Dogwhelk Nucella lapillus. A predatory species of sea snail that preys mostly on barnacles and other bivalves. It has a conical-shaped shell which is usually white in colour, but it may also be brown, yellow or grey. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:30.
Rough Periwinkle Littorina saxatilis. A small sea snail or marine gastropod mollusc. It occurs eulittoral zone down to the boundary of the intertidal edge. It lives in rock crevices of bedrock and under stones. Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/11; Magnification 0.5X; No of images:25.
Coral Spot fungus Nectria cinnabarina. A tiny fungus is found on dead wood throughout the year. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 1:5X; No of images: 40.
Cheimonophyllum candisissimum. Found in woodland usually grown on small twings. Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/11; Magnification 1X; No of images:35.
Blotched Emperor Lobobunaea phaedusa. A close-up of the head. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 90.
Blackish-purple Russula Russula atropurpurea. Found under pine. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:20.
African Golden Emperor Gonimbrasia krucki hindwing eyespot. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 1:5X; No of images: 45.
Frosted Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum twig. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 200mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images:20.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Hybrid. Close-up view of the column and lip of the flower. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/11; Magnification 1:3X; No of images: 45.
Rough Periwinkle Littorina saxatilis. A small marine gastropod snail found commonly among the crevices of intertidal bedrock. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 0:5X; No of images: 20.
Blotched Emperor Lobobunaea phaedusa. A close-up of the head and antennae region. Found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 90.
Blotched Emperor Lobobunaea phaedusa. A close-up of the hindwing eyespot. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 1.4X; No of images: 60.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Hybrid. Close-up view of the column and lip of the flower. Photographic details: Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 90.
Neoris huttoni. A close-up of the hindwing eyespot. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 2X; No of images: 50.
Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum. A small, colourful little flower. The individual carpels sitting on top of the stamens are only about 3mm in size when grouped together. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 115.
Image showing the Castel-MIcro set up in the field to take an image stack of the Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria.
Ivy-leaved Cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium. An attractive perennial belonging to the family Primulaceae. It is the most common and widespread species of the cyclamen group. The beautiful pink flowers can be seen in the autumn. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 100.
Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris. An extreme close-up on the head and mandibles. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 90.
Snowy Disco Fungus Lachnum impudicum? A tiny cup-like fungi that can be found living on decaying wood during the winter months. Identification can be difficult since there are about a dozen species. Microscopic examination is advised to confirm identification as many are of a similar appearance. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 3X; No of images: 95.
Ivy-leaved Cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium. The early morning frost on the emerging flower made an interesting addition to the composition. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro @ F/8; Magnification 1X; No of images: 20.
Lichen Cladonia diversa A colourful species found mainly in heaths, bogs dune systems and decaying stumps. Formally part of the Cladonia coccifera group. Cladonia coccifera is rare and reported only from the Scottish highlands. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 3X; No of images: 95.
Cat's-eyed Emperor Moth Aurivillus aratus. A medium-sized saturniid moth that occurs mainly in West Aftica. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2.5X; No of images: 75.
Common Wood Louse Oniscus asellus. One of the largest and most commonly encountered species in the British Isles. Adults are found frequently in towns and gardens. They have an important role in that they feed off dead plants and creatures recycling vital nutrients into the habitat. They are often mistaken for insects but are, in fact, crustaceans. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 1.3X; No of images: 45.
Coral Slime Mould Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. A common and widespread species mainly found on dead wood. It looks initially like frosted ice crystals when viewed from a distance. Slime moulds are often mistaken for fungi but belong to the family Protozoa. Many are just about visible to the eye. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 3X; No of images: 95.
Winter Pansy Viola species. Close-up view of the Pistil in the centre of the flower. Sometimes known as Ice Pansies due to their tolerance to cold temperatures. One of the 500 or so species belonging to the Violaceae family. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5:6; Magnification 3.5X; No of images: 115.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Hybrid. Close-up view of the column and lip of the flower. Sometimes known as the Moth Orchid because of its shape. There are approximately 70 known species. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Nikon 105mm macro lens + 2X converter @ F/8; Magnification 1X; No of images: 55.
Lemon Disco Fungus Bisporella citrina. A small attractive yellow disc-like species. Widespread and commonly encountered in woodland during the autumn months. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/5.6; Magnification 2:5X; No of images: 115.
Slime mould Arcyria cinerea spheres. Close-up view of the sporangia. A common and widespread species found on wet decaying logs. The specimen is around 2mm high. Photographic details: Novoflex Castel-Micro; Nikon D850; Laowa 2:5-5X macro lens @ F/8; Magnification 3.5X; No of images: 110.