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Photo Stacking Adventures.

Last Updated: 9th Aug 2016

By Giuliano Bettini

My technique and equipment for photographing minerals is quite primitive: I use my IXSUS 115HS, putting the camera (handheld) on top of the microscope eyepiece.
IXSUS Camera in "Auto", color correction for Tungsten light.
To focus, I use the focus knob on my microscope.
Obviously to get a decent picture I have to take many.

Photo Stacking Article.


A few months ago I asked myself:
may I play with the photo stacking even hand-holding the camera?

Well: I did try doing a stack of 2 shots using CombineZP.
First of all I took 2 images with different areas of focus. Then I downloaded CombineZP.
I tried to follow the instructions in the Help but … I didn't understand a damn.
Too many options. I needed a simple example to start.
So I quickly uninstalled CombineZP, too complex to be playing around with.

Some days ago, I retried.
I thought: first of all I have to load two pictures on the system.
I tried to upload two pictures, but I didn't succeed.
Only ONE picture. Why?
Tried and tried, at the end I understood the reason: CombineZP it is designed to process a set of pictures all of which have the same dimensions (they all have the same width and the same height).
Otherwise it doesn’t work, a message appear “Frames must all be the same size”.
So I decided to choose the unprocessed files of the IXSUS Camera, to be sure that they are the same size.
Wow! It did work.
I selected the pictures to stack \ Click on Open \Both images were uploaded in the system.
Here they are:

Photo Stacking Article.
Photo Stacking Article.


At this point I decided to proceed with the simpler options.
These were found to be: “Align” and “Do Stack”.
I have tried, and here the result:
Image Area 1.5 mm x 2 mm.

Photo Stacking Article.


Better shown here:

Photo Stacking Article.


Not so bad, being the first experiment ...


-----------------------------------------------
Now I summarize the procedure, step by step.
With TWO pictures. Baryte from Calafuria, Livorno, Tuscany, Italy.

Here are the two starting pictures. The focus point is shifted from front to back.
(FoV: 4 mm. For sake of clarity, images are slightly adjusted for brightness and contrast).

Photo Stacking Article.
Photo Stacking Article.


Let’s start.
I assume that CombineZP has been installed.
Click the icon “Combine ZP”.
A Start Page appears: “CombineZP Image Stacking Software by Alan Hadley”.
Ignore it (or delete it and move on).
At the top you have a toolbar.
Click “NEW” at the top.
A dialogue appears. Navigate to the folder containing the two files you want to upload.
Highlight them, click on Open and your files will be loaded by the Program ....

Photo Stacking Article.


For some mystery, the screen show ONE picture (one of the two files which are opened).
Don’t worry.
Ignore it and move on.
Select 'Align and Balance Used Frames' from the dropdown list that is just to the left of "GO".
Note: select Align and Balance Used Frames (Thorough), not Align and Balance Used Frames (Quick).
Select \ Click on GO.

Photo Stacking Article.


The screen shows a message:
“Executing Align and Balance Used Frames (Thorough) Macro”.
Wait. Don’t worry.
Compare Frame ...
Wait. Don’t worry.
Resize Rotate Move ...
Wait. Don’t worry.

Photo Stacking Article.


When finished, a picture appears (do not understand what the hell it means…). Do not worry, ignore it.
Select “Pyramid Do Stack”from the dropdown list.
(Note: this time I use Pyramid Do Stack instead of Do Stack Macro. You can use any other method that you want).
Select \ GO.
(Note: each time you select one of the options you have to click the GO button to get it to work).

Photo Stacking Article.


The screen shows a message:
“Executing Do Stack Macro”.
Wait. Don’t worry.
Find Detail ...
Wait. Don’t worry.
Remove Islands ...
Wait. Don’t worry.
Fill Gaps ..
Wait. Don’t worry.
...

Photo Stacking Article.


The whole process should not take more than a few seconds.
When finished, the final image appears:

Photo Stacking Article.


Click on SAVE.
Close.

Here is the result

Photo Stacking Article.


-----------------------------------------------

Quick Summary.

Open “CombineZP”.
Click on “NEW”.
Navigate to the pictures you want to stack.
Select them and click on Open. The files will be uploaded.
To the left of the GO is a down arrow. This gives you a menu of different options.
Select “Align and Balance Used Frames (Thorough)”.
Click on GO.
(wait…)
Select “Do Stack” (or other options).
Click on GO.
(wait…)
End.

Note: I choose the files directly from the IXSUS Camera, to be sure that they are the same size. Otherwise it doesn’t work, a message appear “Frames must all be the same size”.
Note: photos must be in order, front-to-back or back-to-front.

-----------------------------------------------

I'm playing just in these very days.
As well as various photos of minerals, I wanted to test the performances.
I placed a slide rule under the microscope, vertically as much as possible. Then I took a stack of 9 pictures, to check the achievable Depth of Field.
The microscope was moved up in tiny steps, so that the plane of focus passed across the slide rule. In this way, a vertical stack or sequence of 9 images was obtained, each with a very shallow depth of field. When processed with CombineZP, the final image was completely in focus for, say, 12 mm (horizontal FoV 8 mm).

Here is the test.
Image Area 8 x 6 mm. CcmbineZP: 9 stacks.

Photo Stacking Article.


Processing:
“Align and Balance Used Frames (Thorough)”;
“Pyramid Do Stack”.
Here is the result:

Photo Stacking Article.


Not so bad, even if the original pics were heavily misaligned.

-----------------------------------------------

Another example. Vesuvianite from Botro dell'Arancio Quarry, Rosignano Marittimo, Tuscany, Italy.
Image Area 2 x 1.5 mm. CombineZP: 4 stacks.
(For sake of clarity, images are slightly adjusted for contrast and saturation).
The first image shows the 4 shots.
The second image shows the output.
Processing:
“Align and Balance Used Frames (Thorough)”;
“Pyramid Weighted Average”.

Photo Stacking Article.
Photo Stacking Article.

It deserves to keep trying.





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