Sunday, March 27, 2016

More Photo Phocus-Stacking Phun!

After the fun I had with the focus-stacking theme of the last post, I decided more was in order. Of course, there is the Desert Museum, which would be a great choice, but cheapskate that I am, I opted for B&B Cactus Farm on the far-east side of Tucson. While both are about the same drive for me, B&B not only let me gawk and photograph as much as I wanted, the helpful staff pointed me to out-of-the-way places where the early cacti were blooming. Yes, turns out I was a little early - they are saying the peak blooming of the cacti they have will likely be next week - so a warning to the local folks here - next Saturday might be good for a cheap date at B&B!

Hedgehog Cactus, 11 Frame Focus-Stack
Hedgehog Cactus, 8 Frame Focus-Stack
First to attract my attention were several
variety of Hedgehog cacti with their brilliant red and scarlet blooms. Don't forget that the focus-stacking technique I'm working on here are specifically for showing the finest details in close-ups, so most of these might be a more narrow shot.  There are a few single-exposure wide shots, but if you want to see more of the plants themselves, go to the Google, or better yet, go to B&B! Every variety of cacti are different, but the Hedgehog's have the recognizable red-orange flower with the bright green stigma

Robust Hedgehog, 21 Frame Focus-Stack
But just to throw a curve, here is another type of Hedgehog - a "Robust" Hedgehog, according to the tag. Note the markedly different color, though still has the contrasting green stigma.

The focus-stacking technique again, utilizes multiple images shot at different focus settings to extend the zone of sharpness of the image. For instance with this image, when the close edge of the flower was in focus, the rest was necessarily out of focus. There are some minor artifacts, seen just over the near edge of the flower petals, and right around the stigma where the out-of-focus edges in the original image shadowed the details beyond. Photoshop does a good job of putting them together, but it isn't quite perfect... Still, an amazing technique. I'm wondering if the software dedicated to focus-stacking (Zerene, Helicon Focus) would be any better?

Mammillaria rubragrandis, 14 Frame Stack
After the red-end of the spectrum, I was enchanted by other colors - in this case, white with accents! At left is a pincushion cactus with some beautiful white flowers and the palest of pink accents. Labeled Mammillaria rubragrandis, it was a spectacular cactus on its display rack. I felt sorry I didn't take a wider shot, then later found a larger one for sale in the store inside and took the shot at right.

Mammillaria muehlenphfordtii, 14 Frame Stack
Mammillaria rubrograndsis, 17 Frame Stack
And while on the Mammillaria cacti, at
left are some tiny flowers, less than 5-6mm in diameter on a Mammilaria muehlenpfordtii - such a big mouthful for a small cactus! Make sure you click to download the full-size frame to see the details in spines and hairs of the cactus.

Another family member is at right, this time a Mammillaria rubrograndsis. Again, the range in color tints is very striking!

And some colors were more unexpected than others... I know there are some cholla cacti that are about the only plants with green flowers. Too early for them this time of year, but spotted these with brown/tan colors with bright pink stigma. At right is a single wide shot of another plant showing the dark brown flowers.

Golden Barrel, 5 Frame Stack
Nearing the end of my shooting, I headed towards the retail store and spotted a pot nearly 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter that held 3 golden cacti that had to be about 18" (.45m) across. Yet they had the most spectacular little yellow flowers. At left is shown the cactus in the pot, and the close-up at right shows the blossoms. Click the image and you can see the yellow petal-tips are brown, making a subtle accent to the flower. Seeing all the dried blossoms, there must be times when it must appear spectacular!

Mount Lemmon Anaglyph - Red/Blue Glasses needed!
Finally, before leaving, I passed through the sales store and found some more of the spectacular cacti and other things for sale. Along with the white pincushion cactus above, I found another, whose flower was bigger than the cactus itself! Shown at left is the Lobivia wrightiana. It is a small cactus - see my thumb in the picture for scale! I couldn't get out of the Cactus Farm without buying something... I ended up getting a couple totem pole columnar cactus babies about 6" high after admiring my neighbor's growing in his yard over the years. Melinda also needed a new pot to transplant her ivy into, and I also got some cactus potting soil. But with all the images I got (almost 300!), I think I still came out ahead...

Oh, and if you thought you could get by without a 3D image, you would be wrong! I was so focused (excuse the pun!) on the focus stacking, I didn't take any 3D of cacti, but as I was headed out, realized as I drove back that there might be a nice one of the Catalina Mountains to the north. We were far enough away to clearly separate the front range from Mount Lemmon itself, so took a few pairs, figuring a couple hundred yards will do it - so grab your red/blue glasses and check out the image at right.

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