Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cladonia cristatella, commonly known as the British soldier lichen

    The British Soldier Lichen, Cladonia cristatella. It's only about ¼-inch high (6 mm). In this common lichen the red spore-producing reproductive structures are clearly visible. The lichen's name, Cladonia cristatella, is actually the name of the fungus. The alga species in the lichen is known as Trebouxia erici. However, it's customary to name a lichen after its fungal part, so the whole lichen is known as Cladonia cristatella. British Soldiers are usually found on decaying wood, soil, mossy logs, tree bases, and stumps. They help break down old wood and put nutrients back into the soil where they can be used by plants. Lichens also take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil so plants can use it. 

    As John and I was scouting location for our workshop Down East Maine, we were in the Edmunds section of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, where at the boundary between the refuge and the wilderness area we found on a wooden post which had the top of the post covered with British soldier lichens.
    Normally the lichens are found lower to the ground, but this group was on top of the post.

    I first took a photo with my macro lens at f/22 but it did not do justice what I could see with my eye. I did not have a focusing rail with me, so I focused at the front of the lichens, the manually focused 1/2 turn deeper into the lichens until I had eight different exposures. I did basic adjustments in Lightroom, exported the photos into a separate folder.  

    I then opened Photoshop CC 2014, in the "File" menu, go to "Automate" and then choose "Photomerge." Leave the Photomerge options set to "Auto" for layout, and ensure none of the boxes at the bottom are checked.  When the Photomerge options pop up, point it to the folder where the images are stored and choose the files . Leave the option on the left set to "Auto" and then uncheck the option to blend images together. After pressing OK, Photoshop will  align and put the images into the same document.that you placed in the separate folder.

    You now have a new document that has all of the images open in the layers palette. The next  step is to get our images focus stacked.

    Go to the layers palette, and select all of the layers. You can control click all of the layers to select them all. Once all the layers are selected, go to the "Edit" menu and choose "Auto Blend Layers" which will bring up the option to focus stack. Make sure that the setting is on "Stack Images" then press OK.

    This will give the final image which  simulates an increase depth of field.

    I then used StarStaX on the same set of images to give an interesting psychedelic image by stacking all the images in a different way.