My local nature photography club Southern Appalachian Nature Photographers had a presentation last week on focus stacking. This is one of my attempts. I took 40 images using the focus bracketing feature of my camera and stacked them in photoshop.
Shawn, this is a real beauty. I personally haven’t got into focus stacking yet, but to my eye, it looks like you did a super good job of it on this image. I am enjoying the tiny little drops of dew or rain on the thistle. You might could tone down the brightness in the flower, and a tiny bit on the thistle’s right side. The nice smooth background just makes it pop. The side lighting gives it a 3D appearance. A great image as presented.
I have never done focus stacking either but this looks like it worked fine. Most if not all of the flower head looks to be in focus and there is still a very nice smooth bg. A general comment on the photo is that to me eye it seems a little too tight all around the flower head. Really nice exposure and I like the soft side lighting.
The stacking looks good! My taste would be to allow more room for the flower in the frame, and to reduce the contrast a little. Background details can be difficult to see until it’s too late, but it would have been nice to remove the diagonal stem behind the flower.