Alumni Center Art Gallery


Focus-Stacked & Macrophotography of Weeds (mostly)

Photographer: Robert F. Norris

Exhibiting through June 2019

Robert started taking plant photographs in the late 1950s. He learned the craft of close-up photography using a Leica III and a set of extension tubes; see bee orchid photograph taken in 1959. His current equipment is all Nikon; most of the photographs displayed here were taken using one of Nikon’s macro lenses.

close-up of a purple flowerRobert is a retired weed scientist in the Department of Plant Science at UC Davis. He now spends considerable time taking macro photographs of plants (and a few insects). In 2018 he won the macro division of the California State Fair photography competition (photo is displayed in this show). His photographs have also won numerous first place awards in the photo competition at the annual meetings of the Weed Science Society of America. Robert is a member of the Photography Club of Davis, where he has made presentations on macrophotography.

During the last few years camera and computer advances have completely overcome the problem of shallow depth of focus for a single photograph. The process is referred to as focus stacking. Equipment has been developed that permits the photographer to take a sequence (stack) of photographs with incrementally changed focus point for each picture. Computer software then takes files for the ‘stack’ of photographs and combines only the sharp, in focus, part of each picture into a single photograph (see ‘focus stacking explained’ panel). The result is a picture with essentially unlimited depth of focus showing incredible detail that is not normally visible even with a microscope, as the latter still has the problem of limited depth of field unless photomicrographs are also stacked.

A limitation to focus stacking is the requirement that the object being photographed must not move while the stack is being taken.  Outdoor photographs are thus only possible under calm conditions; most of the focus stacked photographs seen in this show were taken under studio conditions using LED lighting

Robert also paints pictures of plants, landscapes and farm machinery using acrylics and oils, and is a world level Masters backstroke swimmer.

Purchase of photographs:  All framed prints are available for sale at end of the show.  Multiple copies can be made.  Please provide your name, phone number and/or email address in the sign-up folder.  Prices are:

8.5” wide paper: $125

11” wide paper: $150

13” wide paper: $175

16/17” wide paper: $225

Contact Robert at: rfnorris@ucdavis.ed

Most of Robert’s plant photography is aimed at showing characteristics of plants, especially weeds, that are used in their identification.  Panels of photographs show characteristics of seeds, seedlings, the plant growing in a typical ecosystem, overview of the flowering structure, plus a larger close-up to show the structure of the flowers (the ‘unseen flower’).  Several panels also show a vegetative character that is useful for identification (e.g. collar region of grasses).

Virtually all photographs, except for the plant in its ecosystem, are focus stacked (see ‘focus stacking explained’ panel) in order to visualize the fine details.

To see more of Robert’s plant (and a few insect) photographs go to where he makes a selection of his photographs available for public use.