Outdoor Photography Tips 35 - Stacking the Deck II- Stabilizing the Subject

In Outdoor Photo tips 34 we learned about a new device to help speed up the capture time in photo stacking. The Helicon FB Tube is a computerized extension tube that mounts between the camera body, and the lens. In that article, you were introduced to the stacking process and how we reduced the time frame between captures by the use of the FB tube. I also mentioned that I was working on a home-made device which will also assist you in the field. Well here it is.

Working in the field often makes it difficult to use a tripod to capture small organisms when they are moving because of wind, or even the organism itself moving about. Attempting to hold the twig, leaf, or other support steady by your own hand would not seem to be a difficult task, but when working close-up, small movements become large ones when viewed through the macro lens. Up close depth of field is shallow, hence the use of stacking. But how do we stabilize the subject or supporting structure the organism is attached to?

The tripod again becomes the tool to bring in the field. Manfrotto, formerly Bogen, manufactured tripods and heads – and they still do. They manufacture both professional and consumer market tripods. The 3028 head(3D axis pan head) (below) is no longer manufacture by Manfrotto, but they have a newer model.

I have photographed the tripod and head to illustrate the reason I used this particular head for my accessory stabilizing unit. The center support on the head has a flattened bar support system. I drilled a ¼” hole into the center of it and mounted an articulating arm through the hole and placed a nut an washer to secure it to the center post(See photo below).

The other end is attached to a 1” piece of aluminum square stock. It is light and very rigid to reduce swinging and swaying in a mild wind or breeze. If you look at the end of the square stock, you will notice a articulating set of alligator clips.(see Below) The are used to secure the subject to be photographed in the stack. Be aware, the double alligator clips are most essential as they aid in holding the stacking subject in two separate locations. This makes maneuvering and stabilizing the subject much easier. Many small stems are quite flexible, and by gripping them from two ends, it stabilizes the structure for multiple image captures. The more closely each image is like the previous frame, the easier it is for the software to match each subsequent exposure.

Here is a shot of a flowering Clematis plant(See Above) - extremely difficult to hold still if I were to attach it with one clip. When the second clip is added, the flowers can now be moved into position and held for shooting many frames.

The spider and Tortoise Shell Butterfly shot(below), was made using this stabilizing unit. This shot would not have been possible due to the constant breeze present at the time of capture.

The alligator clips and bracket were cannibalized from a stand similar to the one at the found here.

Since its inception, stacking has presented the photographer, and especially the photographer who spends a great deal of time with live subjects in nature, not in the studio with dead organisms, with a definite challenge of real-time captures. Now, with the aid of this new tube from Helicon, and the construction of this home-made stabilizing arm, you will be able to capture, in remarkable detail, the wonders of the field nature photographer. Happy shooting.

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