My Antioch Falling Horseman in extremely high detail

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Kaleun96, Oct 26, 2020.

  1. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    I've posted this coin here before but recently was trying a new photography method called "stack and stitch" to achieve even higher detail.

    Unfortunately it can't be embedded in the page and is hosted on EasyZoom:

    The photo has a resolution of 96MP so is a relatively large file that needs to be hosted somewhere that won't severely compress the image.

    My previous photo was already quite detailed but this new one takes it that extra bit further. If you zoom both in on the area around Constantius' eye you can really see the difference.

    You end up with a "warts and all" photo of a coin that otherwise looks blemish-free in the hand but it's not often you can see a coin at such a high level of detail!
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  3. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    Looks great to me!
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  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

  5. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Beautiful. I can see the molecules of the metal
    Kaleun96, +VGO.DVCKS and Inspector43 like this.
  6. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Well-Known Member

    Wow!!! Fantastic that's a great pic! :singing:;)...& a very nice specimen!
    Kaleun96 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Equally stunning coin and photography. With that level of detail, you really get the gestalt of the enemy's long cloak (-thing) being the sartorial equivalent of ethnic stereotyping (...Sasanian?).
    Kaleun96 likes this.
  8. Jim Dale

    Jim Dale Well-Known Member

    I'm not one for ancient coins, but those are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Kaleun96 like this.
  9. Moe "Wolfy" Wilder

    Moe "Wolfy" Wilder Moe Wilder

    I'll have to grade that one AG... or Absolutelutely Gorgeous.

    On a side note, when non ancient coin collector types want to see some examples or want to know what ancient Rome was "really like". I have to show them a fallen horseman. I say, "This is what the Romans were like: They show an enemy being killed right there on their money! and the legends translates roughly to 'Happy Days Are Here Again'. Now, can you imagine living in a country that openly tells everyone that if you're not on their team or you simply disagree with them, they will kill you and be dang happy to do it!?"

    This design can also be thought of as equivalent to saying "Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest"
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
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  10. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the nice comments on the coin and the photography! I'm glad the extra detail hasn't taken away from the beauty of the coin. I'm not much of a LRB collector but I had to make an exception for this one ;)

    I can't get over how large and imposing a figure they make the Roman soldier compared to the lowly barbarian and their horse. I also love the exaggerated upper body proportions of the soldier, almost something out of a cartoon (e.g. Johnny Bravo).

    The other coin I like in this "propaganda" regard is that of Perseus holding Medusa's decapitated head over her lifeless body. But in this case, it's against the Romans.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  11. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Here it is for those who don't want to click the link:

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  12. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately you can't zoom in with these embedded photos so while it's good for seeing how it appears normally, I think it's still worth going to the link to be able to zoom in all the way on all the small details :)
    galba68 likes this.
  13. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    @Kaleun96 that's really a nice coin and an interesting photo technique. Could you explain how you photographed it?
  14. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    Certainly! I'll try keep this somewhat brief as I could talk for days on this topic, but feel free to ask any follow up questions.

    In terms of hardware, I have an automated focus stacking rig. It doesn't merge the photos together, rather it just allows me to set a "start" and "end" point for a sequence of photos and then automatically moves the camera very small amounts and takes a photo each time.

    A key point to understand is that with a macro lens on a camera your depth of field is much lower than what it is with a more normal lens (e.g. a 50mm prime). The depth of field can be a fraction of a millimetre, so when pointed at an object with depth (like a coin with high relief), only a fraction of the coin may be in focus. Focus stacking then aims to capture the entire coin in focus through multiple photos and then merging them into a single in-focus image.

    Increasing magnification also reduces field of view. So at 2x the camera sees a smaller part of the coin than if you were shooting it at 1x.

    In this case, I realised that at 2x magnification with my lens I would need four "substacks" of the coin for each side to capture it in its entirety. By this I mean I can photograph the coin in the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right and end up with four photos that have overlapping parts and when stitched together would show the entire coin. Each "substack" is then a sequence of photos at each of the four locations where I photograph the coin at different distances, to ensure I get all of it in focus.

    So the substacks are kind of capturing the depth of the coin and the four locations at which I make the substacks is covering the width/breadth of the coin.

    Each substack is combined into a single photo through focus stacking software (e.g. Zerene Stacker). After this, I have four stacked photos, each showing a portion of the coin with the entire coin in focus. I can then stitch these four stacked photos together using Microsoft's free Image Composite Editor. This is the "stack and stitch" process.

    After that, I clean it up a bit in Lightroom and then over to Photoshop to put both sides of the coin in the same image.
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  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    That is a most interesting technology. It combines focus stacking which has been shown here many times with side by side stitching allowing a much larger file. Of course we have to ask what purpose for the file makes it worth the process only to gain 4x more. Perhaps I am not understanding but are you getting a single file that can then be printed or is the result only viewable using the software? What size print is required to show an advantage of this technique over just shooting the coin in a standard manner? I have no source or desire for larger than 20x30" prints. Have you compared results in that format? Certainly the technique allows using a very good lens less limited by field of view requirements. In all honesty what amazes me most is how dust free your image is.

    Without doubt, some coins will show benefits from this more than others. Below is a similar coin shot in the ordinary way (not focus stacked) and resized down to allow posting on Coin Talk. The inset shows a part of the coin before downsizing. The sharpness boost from your rig is obvious. Thank you for sharing.
    With a little compression of the single image, I was able to get a file CT would accept showing only the reverse. Click to enlarge.
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  16. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    Hey Doug, thanks for your comments! I've browsed your Fel Temp site many times.

    The end result is a single file for each side of the coin and you could definitely take it and blow it up to a large print. Though I would agree that this technique is a bit overkill for that unless you want a massive print.

    Where this technique really shines is in digital format where you can zoom in on different parts of the coin as much as you like. It's like one of those videos that keeps zooming in on an object from life-size to the microscopic (with the help of blending transitions). Except here all of the "information" of the subject is in a single JPG file, unlike these macro zoom videos where they are combining multiple shots from different lenses together.

    You could argue this technique allows you to crop the image how ever you like after the fact but I imagine if you're going to crop to show only a section of a coin, it's easier to just shoot that one section and focus stack as normal.

    As for the dust, that's a tricky one as I usually forget to clean the coins properly beforehand. In this case I lightly washed it under running water and dried it out with a lens cloth beforehand. I didn't even bother cleaning up the few specks of dust in Photoshop so what you see is how it was!

    Yup exactly, I chose this coin in particular because it was so flat while also having a lot of detail and being an interesting type. I wouldn't use this technique for every coin, partly because it's so time consuming but also because not all coins will benefit from that extra resolution. A lot of Greek silvers can have a relatively boring surface finish but ones with more finer detail could be worthwhile.

    As you show in your photos, regular photography methods get you 99% there and are much easier to share online due to the smaller file formats. The boost I get from this method compared to regular focus stacking at 1x is really only discernible at that max zoom range:

    I'm always looking to push things a bit further and try new methods so it was a fun exercise even if not particularly practical!
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  17. Moe "Wolfy" Wilder

    Moe "Wolfy" Wilder Moe Wilder

    Thank you for the details of the photography technique. It sounds immensely complicated but is obviously very effective. I wonder, and please excuse me if I missed the answers along the way, what computer equipment are you using to do all the heavy lifting? Quad core, 6-core? How much RAM? About how long does the entire process take, from step 1 to final image?

    However, and I apologize in advance as this might sound a little sarcastic, but why, in all of Hades, would you expend all of that time and effort and then save it as JPG??? That's sort of like creating a perfect method to recreate every minute detail of a Rembrandt but then using construction paper for the final media. Is file size the issue? Does PNG or other lossless format create files that are simply too huge to process, open, transfer, etc. in a reasonable amount of time?

    The Technically Minded want to know...
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  18. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Great coin and pic - would you mind if I used the reverse on my next book? The image stack rail system is something I remember as the tip of the high end for microphotography. I'm surprised you can get such good lighting with the macro lens bumped up against the coin. Can you describe your hardware and lighting setup?

    A few years ago I wrote an article on photographing coins at high magnification which some of you may find interesting:

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  19. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    I don't agree with this sentiment. I think you're coming from the purist camp that believes anything other than RAW file format is sacrilege. First of all, you don't even know if he doesn't have a master copy. Second, a JPG saved at max quality is pretty much indistinguishable from a lossless file format while still having a smaller footprint. Third, the right choice of file format ultimately rests on what the intended purpose is. For web display JPG has been king since the early 90's and I doubt at this point any other will be a serious rival as the compression algorithm is already close to 100% of theoretical efficiency (afaik).

    You could print a wall-sized poster with a file of this size without a hit of loss of detail. I think he made the right call.

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  20. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    It is more complicated than a single photo for sure but once you boil it down to the different steps it's fairly straight-forward! As for the hardware, I believe I have a GTX 1060 6GB, AMD Ryzen 2600x and 32GB RAM (recent upgrade). If you were fast enough, you could pump out a completed image in an hour. When it comes to the photography, most of the time is spent arranging the lighting at the start and then ensuring I'm starting each "substack" of photos from the correct position and stopping once I have in-focus photos of all parts of the coin in-frame. Taking the photos is very quick and the automated motorized setup helps here.

    The editing isn't too bad. One inefficient part is stacking the different "substacks" as it takes ~5 min per substack to process (in Zerene or similar) and then you have to check the image for issues, save it, remove the images, import the images for the new substack etc. So it's a bit repetitive but could probably be scripted. Microsoft's Image Composite Editor is fantastic and very fast to use for the stitching part though.

    No worries! Suarez made some good points that partly explained my reasoning. Some other factors: shooting in RAW would slow my process down as it takes longer to process the images, stack them in software, stitch them together, edit them etc. This was more of a proof of concept so shooting in JPG is perfectly fine. I could covert them to PNG but honestly it'd just increase the file size for not much benefit. When you end up sharing these on the internet, they're going to be compressed by something else anyway and very few people would notice any difference.

    Would your approach be to shoot in RAW and then convert to PNG? I had always thought PNG was a bit unnecessary for photography because its benefits are not as easily distinguishable compared to say using PNG instead of JPG for a graphic, icon, or text. But honestly I hadn't considered using PNG compared to "uncompressed" (i.e. not compressed in Lightroom/Photoshop) JPG.

    Here's the Photoshop .psd file exported to PNG and uploaded to the same EasyZoom website. It's twice the size but I can't notice any differences in quality - though I know that converting JPG to PNG at the end of the process is not ideal, it does illustrate the file size considerations.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
  21. Kaleun96

    Kaleun96 Well-Known Member

    Sure, feel free to use it for your book! In terms of hardware/lighting - I put together a short video the other month that gives an overview of my setup, hopefully it answers some of your questions:

    For coins I pretty much stick to using the Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x macro lens, which provides a lot of working distance (maybe ~20cm?) at 1x magnification so I have no trouble getting the lights in there. I also have a lot of other lenses that can provide more custom macro setups with either higher resolution (and lower working distance) or more magnification but it's often not worth bothering with those setups when the Laowa is a very good lens. These lenses are often "enlarger lenses" or from scanners or other industrial equipment so they're less user friendly and less flexible to different conditions.

    I'm always experimenting with my setup so no two photos of mine are ever quite the same but typically I use one off-camera flash from at an angle between 45-90 degrees depending on the coin. Sometimes a bit of diffusion gel as well, sometimes I also tilt the coin a little. At the moment I'm experimenting with axial illumination, which is a technique more popular with modern coin collectors but has some interesting advantages.

    Interesting article btw! 2012 can almost be considered the heyday of digital photomacrography. I know people have been doing it for much longer on the internet but so much information has been shared since then thanks to those who were experimenting with all sorts of different lenses and setups at this time.

    Are you still shooting macro photos of coins?
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