Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crumb Snatcher [Featured on]

As I mentioned at the end of my last macro post, I had something that I wanted to share. If you have stopped by my FLICKR, you may have already seen that the photo above was featured on a research article. I had set this photo to be re-blogged for one of the Flickr groups, and it just so happens that someone used featured my photo to talk about a lab study on the same morning I had input that option. Out of the thousands of photos of Drosophila, they somehow found and liked mine.

For me, this is an awesome thing. I want my photos out there because I want people to see how cool the subjects I photograph really are. The Drosophila above was friendly, they let me get very close (within two inches). They would fly away when I would get close now and then, but would always return. They found some sort of tiny morsels and I was able to get this photo.

Photography is about learning, collecting memories, and sharing them in an interesting way. We all have a unique perspective, and I hope that I continue to become better at achieving consistent results so others can learn alongside me. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Macro Photography Journey- Part 2

Drosophila Staredown

Life size is a matter of perspective. We see tiny leaves and insects all the time, no big deal. To the naked eye, we see these subjects like an astronaut might see the Earth from space, or a person looking up at the sky and seeing a disc-shaped moon. With macro, I have a newfound love for nature with all its life that goes mostly unseen. Seeing creatures as they really are is a singularly rewarding experience. There’s an interaction with these little life forms, I have questions about them and they’re just as inquisitive about me. They have so much personality; macro photography lets me see them as they are. I’ve gone from stargazer to astronaut.

My final setups involved using a clamp to hold the lens and tele-converter together (donated by my Dad) and a little bit of tape to keep things in place. It took a couple of attempts to hold them together, the first time the 35mm wasn’t perfectly straight so there was distortion. But my third lens setup was truly the charm. At roughly 1.4x magnification, I have enough close-up ability to get details in tiny bugs, but not so close that I can’t get some of their environment in the photo as well.

My issue now has to do with light and depth of field. Wide open at F3.5, I have about half a millimeter in focus, no kidding. At F8 I have a decent amount in focus, with F11 and F16 being better in terms of depth of field but with slightly noticeable diffraction. These are the apertures set on the lens, but the amount of light hitting the sensor is even less because of the modified tele-converter. I’m thinking that the amount of light is still halved, so F8 is like F11, F11 is F16, etc. An external light is critical; I have no off-camera flash and am still challenging myself to not spend money.

Fly in the Hand, Two in the Bush

All of the macro photos you have seen have been with the on-board flash. Playing around with different flash settings has yielded decent results, but I wanted to have the light coming from the side (and not straight on). I set out to build a diffuser, and after cutting up rolls of paper towels, Styrofoam cups, and small boxes, I’ve ended up with something decent. Using an elongated can, a cupcake plastic holder, tape, and aluminum foil, I’ve created mini Frankenstein flash unit. I haven’t had time to experiment with it much, but it does give the photos a more natural feel. A co-worker donated the last piece of the puzzle, and I hope to put this setup to use over the coming months.

I have one post left in this series, something I’m very proud of that I’d like to share. Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to leave comments, critiques, or follow via RSS feed.

PS: If you have a chance, please stop by my new Flickr Group:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiny World 1.0+

 It has been one and a half months since my last confession.

This blog, for me, is a confession of sorts. I get to say what I’ve been doing, haven’t been doing, and what I should be doing better. Discussing different topics that mean something to me is a beautiful, double-edged source of release. On one hand, I get to get things off my chest. However, I always feel like moving on to the next experiment once I’ve posted on my blog. There’s always the next subject. This isn’t really bad, since it keeps me on my toes and trying to learn as much as I can. But at the same time, I would like to concentrate on one subject at length to truly gain an understanding, a deeper connection if you will, of myself as a person and my subject as.. well, as something more than a decent image.

Most of my time has been spent making nature photos. Part of that has to do with nature not complaining or yelling at me when making its photo. Nature sits still but is always changing, so each day holds something new. It’s fun to take scenes out of context; I like to develop characters out of inanimate scenes. With all that said, this post is the first of many regarding this subject, but I have a separate project in mind as well.

Catching Some Rays

On my path to create new images and move beyond what I’ve already done, I started Macro photography a couple of months ago. In photographic terms, it’s where the subject of your photo is depicted at life size when compared to your sensor, or larger than that. An insect that is 5 millimeters long would be 5 millimeters long on your sensor; this would be 1:1 or 1x magnification. One attractive aspect to Macro photography is that you can find subjects in your own house or backyard. A few square feet of grass or shrubs can yield dozens of photographic subjects, or even on your front stoop!

Gently Fearsome

My only issue when starting was that I couldn’t afford to buy a new lens dedicated to macro. I challenged myself to spend no money in the pursuit of this new genre. After a considerable amount of research, I opted to use my vintage lenses to get the magnification I needed. I started with a 35mm lens reversed onto a 135mm lens, which resulted in roughly 3.5x magnification. The results were instantly intriguing. A few millimeter-long insect/arachnid now filled the frame. This was incredible, and I knew I was on the right track. After experimenting with this setup at different focus ranges and apertures, there were two issues. First, the depth of field was ridiculously shallow. At decent apertures I had maybe 1 to 2 millimeters in focus. This made it beyond difficult to get little creatures in focus. The second issue was that the 135mm I own is a pretty beat-up lens. It has very large blemishes, scratches, and is extremely soft. At this magnification, those imperfections are also magnified.

Jumpy the Spider

As you can see from the above photo, I needed a setup that yielded better optical results. I own a 2x Soligor tele-converter that cost $12 at a flea market, but the results were awful. The single piece of glass in there was, quite honestly, piss poor. I got the idea to try and remove that glass. Internet searches were made in vain; I was on the verge of hammering out that glass. My phone has a video-recording feature, and part of the feature is to record with the flash continuously on. With this, I used the phone as a magnifier to take a closer look at the tele-converter. With this method, I saw there were two notches at opposite ends of the lens element. I used a tiny pair of needle-nose pliers, each side pressing into each dot, and rotated the lens until it was out. So now my tele-converter is an extender (I can now focus even closer to my subjects with no optical loss, only less light hitting the sensor).

My first tries were with a 50mm screwed in; this yielded the first photo in this blog post. Not 1:1, but neat nonetheless. All of this was with one goal in mind: to reverse the 35mm lens onto the modified tele-converter to hopefully reach something a little bit better than life size magnification.

On my next post I’ll be discussing what I ended up with as my lens setup, photo samples, work-arounds, and the light modifier I built.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Birthday Lunch

Had an awesome birthday lunch with my co-workers. Celebrated three birthdays for our team. Great food, awesome cake, incredible company!