"The double head monster of the pond: Thinking digitally" by Juan Aragonés
A lot of times we have to face some kind of frustration due to the limitations of our gear to capture the image that we like. Telephoto lenses, the workhorse of most animal photographers, have a lot of reach but produces very shallow deep of field. That feature is very nice to produce images with subjects very well isolated from the background but, on the other hand, it is a problem if your intention is to capture more than a subject, placed at different distances, in the same frame.
(please click on the images for full size view!)
Last year, I was inside my blind waiting for a kingfisher that did not come. My 2X teleconverter put on my Nikkor 300VR or, in other words, 600 mm of focal length and very shallow deep of field. Then, my attention was attracted by a sudden movement in the pond. A couple of grass snake (Natrix maura), a common species in the Spanish ponds, were emerging to the surface looking for fresh air. A great opportunity to return to home with some cool, unexpected images. I was sure that I was going to have problems with the deep of field and the two snakes so I decided to make two images. In the first one I captured the foreground snake in focus while the other one was out of focus.
Then I repeated the image but focusing on the background one. A few minutes in Photoshop allowed me to combine both images and to increase the deep of field without having problems with shutter speed, noise, diffraction or light, nor altering the reality of the scene. Obviously, to create this kind of images the subjects needs to be very static or totally motionless.
I always shoot RAW and I tend to make overexposed images, about one stop, because at high ISO I can handle noise issues much better if the image is overexposed while keeping a lot of details in the shadows (my RAW conversion are, usually, one stop underexposed to compensate the overexposure). In digital photography, it is very important to have the higher amount of pixels at the right side of the histogram, to avoid noise issues and to have an image with a lot of potential for processing.
Many people think that spending more time than necessary in the computer is a waste of time but, in my opinion, one can learn a lot of things about photography spending time in Photoshop. After half an hour trying to fix a mistake in the computer it is for sure that next time you will try to avoid the same mistake in the field. One may think that this is a serious manipulation of the original image but, in my opinion, is not an alteration of the scene that I saw but just the use of digital technology to compensate the limitations of my photographic gear, no more than the manipulation we made to create a panoramic landscape or a B&W image. Thinking digitally.