|Miss Willmott's Ghost or Eryngium giganteum|
Miss Willmott's Ghost or Eryngium giganteum is a biennial that has been growing in my front border for at least 15 years. It is a prolific self sower and I don't think I could get rid of it even if I wanted to, and sometimes I do want to get rid of it. It has self sowed so well that it is now taking over neighboring properties. It got its nickname because supposedly Ellen Willmott, an English amateur horticulturalist living in the late 1800s went around surreptitiously dropping seeds of it in other people's gardens. I don't know if this is true or not but it makes a good story. See this article for more on Miss Willmott.
The flowers of Miss Willmott's ghost are a silvery color, not the blue that many other eryngium flowers are, and while they look good at certain stages in their life, as they age they get brown and ugly looking. Of course that can be said of many of us, but we certainly don't like it in flowers!
The image above is of the flower at its peak and it does look good then. I used the focus stacking technique I described in an earlier post to achieve this image. I used a tripod, since to do focus stacking well, all the images must be exactly the same except for the focus. I then took 14 different images using manual focus and tried to get each part of the flower in focus on at least one image. There is no magic number of shots necessary and 14 may have been overkill, but that is the number I had on this one. I don't usually take so many shots for a focus stacked image. I used my 60mm macro lens for this shot at f11. (I have a Nikon d300 camera).
After uploading the images to my computer, I went to Adobe Bridge and selected the 14 images. These were all Raw images. I do not use jpegs for editing. I then made sure that all 14 images were processed simultaneously in Camera Raw, and then, keeping all images selected, I opened them all in one image as layers. This can be done be selecting from the drop down menu in Bridge under Tools, and then under Photoshop where it says Load Files into Photoshop Layers. This opens Photoshop and all the images you have selected will be displayed, each as a separate layer.
Then, selecting all the layers, go to the dropdown menu in Photoshop (I am currently using CS5) under Edit and choose Auto-Align Layers. It may take the computer a few minutes to do this, but this step is necessary because, even if you used a tripod, there may have been some movement of the camera or of the plant. Then, after the layers are aligned, keeping them all still selected, go to the Edit dropdown menu again and choose Auto-Blend layers. Again, this may take some time but what the computer is doing is taking all the in focus parts of the photos and putting them in one image. And voila just like magic you have an in focus flower and an out of focus background. You can then process the combined image just as you would process any other image.
There are also some Photoshop plugins or stand alone programs that do the same thing and some of them may do it better than Photoshop, but I can get satisfactory results using Photoshop alone.