Rik Littlefield

I'm 60 years old, with university degrees in mathematics (1973) and computer science (1988). I've always made my living by developing software, mostly in the areas of graphics and image processing for scientific applications. Most of my work has been interdisciplinary, working on the boundaries between computer science, mathematics, and applications, first at a university and later at a U.S. national lab. As a result, I have a collection of minor publications in disparate areas like data visualization, computational chemistry, non-destructive testing of welded pipe, 3D medical imaging, video analysis, and text analysis of natural language documents.

In parallel with that career as a developer of scientific software, I've maintained since childhood a passion for photographing small things. I started collecting and raising insects in 6th grade. I started macro photography around 7th grade, shooting through a magnifying glass with an Argus C3 rangefinder camera. In high school I bought an SLR and bellows to get better results.

In my teens I spent a lot of time looking through microscopes. It always frustrated me that I could not make pictures that would show other people what I could see with my own eyes through a scope. The DOF was so shallow!

For a while I tried stopping down to get more DOF. I even machined custom aperture plates to drop into microscope objectives. But I got very frustrated because the sharpness went away long before the DOF became significant. When I did that, I was only in high school. I imagined that the problem could be solved by some fancy expensive optics, and I looked forward to someday being able to afford those. But of course I was wrong. The problem was not cheap optics; it was diffraction.

You can probably imagine how the story goes from there. As computers got bigger and faster, digital image processing became more feasible, and finally things reached a point where a good job could be done with equipment available to ordinary people, not just labs with big budgets.

I started playing with focus stacking in the mid 1990's and became a dedicated fan of the technique in 2004 when I bought my first DSLR. The more I worked with the technique, the more excited I got, because finally I could make images that showed *more* than I could see with my own eyes through a scope. I still get excited every time that happens, which is pretty much every time I run a stack.

However, the more I worked with stacking, also the more frustrated I became because of hard to fix artifacts made by available software.

Finally in 2008, I was able to leave my salaried job doing software development for other people. That freed me to pursue my own passions, in part by doing software development for myself. I wrote Zerene Stacker mostly to make better images myself, and was pleased to discover that it helped other people too.

Now of course I spend most of my time helping other people with their photography instead of doing my own. But that's OK. I like teaching, and besides, other people are making better images with my software than I can!

Born: 1952 (age 60 now)

Education: B.S. mathematics, 1973 M.S. computer science, 1988

Career: Software development, mostly in graphics and image processing for scientific applications.

10 years at a university computer center (University of Washington, Seattle)

28 years at a U.S. national lab (http://www.pnnl.gov/)

3 years self-employed.

Passions: Insects since childhood.

Macro photography since 7th grade.

Science of all sorts.

I started formal training in electronics in 8th grade, and after high school I was admitted to university in electrical engineering. My university scholarship grant came largely from an insect rearing project documented with macro photographs, shot using lens adapters that I machined myself, the photos processed in my basement darkroom. But then I switched out of engineering because the program was too narrow, and I ended up getting degrees in math & computer science, with many courses in other areas like biology, chemistry, physics, and scientific illustration.

First digital photography: 1981, using lab equipment.

First focus stacking on a PC: 1997, using a video camera with a real-time frame grabber. First DSLR: Canon "Digital Rebel", the EOS 300D, in early 2004.

First posted review of focus stacking software: October 2004, covering CombineZ4, Helicon Focus 2.03 Lite, Syncroscopy AutoMontage Essentials 5.01, and my own extended depth of field mods to Panorama Tools.

At www.photomacrography.net: joined May 2005, became Admin in Jan 2007.

Retired from PNNL: July 2008.

Started Zerene Systems: October 2008.