Pholiota squarroides

A gorgeous little cluster on a tree. Did a 9-image stack to get them all reasonably sharp. Found in the Headwaters Wilderness which is part of the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. Before focus stacking this would have been a tough shot, compromising crisp and not-so-crisp areas of focus. Yay technology!

Specific Feedback Requested

Anything useful to the processing is welcome - I cropped it this way because the bark on the right side of the shot was peeled away and very distracting (I’m pretty sure this was a snag, not a living tree).

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Tripod and probably the CPL
Focus bracketing using 0+ method, 4-step, 15 or so images, 9 used in the final stack.


Bah, underexposed. I was trying to be careful with the highlights because there was a little bit of direct sun and these guys are very shiny. I think I blew it though. Had to add some back in Lr.

Lr for initial adjustments - starting with a linear profile because those highlights were pretty high. Also some white balance work and initial sharpening. Zerene for stacking. DMap output because the colors were better. Photoshop for extensive use of masking and other TK8 actions including color cast adjustment and a couple of dodge and burn layers. I also did some cloning to fill in bare spots on the bark.


Yet another beautiful illustration.

I can’t comment on the color adjustments.

The placement of the fungi in the frame is, I don’t have a good word for it, but a tighter structure might work better.

The contrast of the light between the left and right sides doesn’t work for me. Maybe pulling the left side of the frame close to the fungi and leaving the right where it is would work. It just looks like the organisms are living, actually fruiting, in two different worlds.

The contrast in the light was part of my struggle with this one, @paul_g_wiegman - how to manage it to a benefit not a deficit. I added a little warmth to the highlights on that side by doing some fancy stuff with the Paint Color Output mode in the TK8 panel, but maybe the whole needs to be warmer in terms of white balance for it not to look weird. I can try again.

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What a wonderful cluster with gorgeous detail both in focus and lighting!! Color is perfect for me, and no hint of initial underexposure. I don’t mind the different look of the left side but maybe try to pull down the highlights and make them warmer? Maybe just a simple gradient mask?

Thanks D, I will try to give that a go. I am pretty sure a gradient mask was used to bring down the highlights over there and warm them, but maybe I didn’t go far enough. These days I take the Coco Chanel approach to processing. Do everything you think it needs, then remove one thing.

Good thought from Coco! I had to try something, mostly just as an exercise with TK masks. I did a Darks 4, and probably should have increased its contrast a bit. Output to a Curves, selected subject, went to QM mode and brushed out the tree to the right, back to a selection and brushed this area off the TK mask. Then made a layer group with this mask and did a Color Balance, going toward greens, cyans and yellows. Then a Selective Color in the same group (ti use the same mask) with neutrals pushed toward cyan and yellow, and away from magenta. Probably not the most elegant way to do it but it made a slight difference in the left side. I went too heavy on cyan/green and it still needs less contrast. Play with saturation? Maybe use the mask to do some painting? Maybe a slight crop from the left, too.

Screen Shot 2021-10-29 at 7.45.16 AM

Not bad! Agree it could use some contrast, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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Yup. Looks better for me.

The colors, forms, and distribution of these mushrooms make for a wonderful subject. I agree that the contrast boost is very helpful. I don’t do a lot of stacking but I do have Zerene and it is fun to work with.