A Pixel-Stitcher Celebrates The Glamour of Boar’s Head

November 23, 2014
Beefeater Uniforms
©2014 Barry Carlin

When Barry Carlin first came to Christ Church Cathedral three years ago, one of the first things he saw was a display of Roy Steiner’s pastel sketches of the Boar’s Head Festival. He liked them, and he wanted to know more.

Before very long, he and Roy were serving together in the Boar’s Head cast, and Barry was recalling the words of a well-known photo teacher who wrote that to do art well, you have to fall in love with your subject. Barry was in love with everything about Boar’s Head – but especially the costumes.

Since retiring from his electrical engineering career, Barry had been focusing on photography. He wanted to photograph those costumes – and he wanted to do it in an exacting way that requires skills and a level of patience that many an excellent photo pro would find challenging.

His technique is called focus stacking. Here’s how it works: 

If a camera is recording, for instance, a Beefeater’s hat, it will focus on one part of the hat, and other parts will be slightly out of focus. So the patient photographer shoots the hat as many as two dozen times, focusing each time on a different part of the hat.

Once the images are in the photographer’s computer, each focal area is cut out from each image – like pieces of a jig saw puzzle – and then patiently, patiently, the photographer stitches them together almost at the level of individual pixels. 

Because Barry has had a good bit of practice at focus stacking, he can complete one photo in about a week. Somebody just getting started in the technique would need a lot more time.

The result is astonishing. When properly reproduced, focus-stacked images leap off their two-dimensional surface. In Barry’s view, Boar’s Head’s wonderful costumes deserve no less.

Many church staffers and members have helped Barry with this project. He’s still getting used to Episcopalian language and traditions, but he’s already enchanted by the helpful spirit he’s encountered everywhere.

The project has led to a full-scale, 75th anniversary Boar’s Head art exhibit that will include 10 of Barry’s painstakingly produced photos, old banners and other artifacts that have been 
rescued from closet corners and cleaned up, a new banner by Susan West, enlarged giclee prints of what Roy Steiner believes are his best pastel sketches, and some of Constance Sanders’ best still life photographs of Boar's Head props.

The exhibit will hang from Dec. 5 to Jan. 5 – but that won’t be the last of it. Barry has more ideas, and so do others who have contributed to this exhibit. Just as the Boar’s Head Festival has gotten better every year, so will the annual Boar’s Head art exhibit.

You can count on it. When artists fall in love with a subject, they never quit.

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