I had my first complete shoot out with a model last Sunday, and it was the first time I did the whole process to a satisfactory level in a single day.
In the morning, the wife left to teach in a supplementary school, leaving me and my 2.4-year-old to play around. There was a drawing board left in the garden, in the rain, that I took in to repair and use. I put it in the living room, cleaned it up, and discovered four tiny little creepers having a stroll in the vast space of the drawing table.
So I went up to my room and got these bad boys:
I chose the EOS M for this shoot, featuring my own EOS M DiY grip, because it was light weight (especially couple with that huge M42 russian macro bellows) and uses liveview so I should be able to see precisely where I'm focusing (or so I thought). The two lights are Canon Speedlites 580EX and 430EX II because this is what I currntly have, and thy are all linked with YongNuo's brilliant YN-622c wireless ETTL system. The lens is an enlarger's lens: EL-Nikkor 80mm f5.6 adapted from M39 to M42 with a real cheap adapter from eBay.
Seeing where I'm focusing was not really that easy even with liveview, due to the extremely low amount of light reaching the sensor. I was using an 80mm f5.6 at f11 or f16, with bellows extended the whole 30cm. I think it would have been more than the equivalent of an f64 aperture stop. So I needed both lights, which were firing full power every time (bounced off walls and the ceiling in different directions depending on the shot, and in conjunction with the room light coming from the big window), and also ISO 800. I would have hated to use ISO any higher. Even with all that, I wouldn't see much on my LCD. The photo would only appear when the flashes fired.
All in all I was extremely happy with most of the shots, aside from the fact that they made me realise just how much my sensor needed a clean. A considerable amount of spot-healing to remove the now-apparent dirt (remember how small my aperture in these shots is. This makes the tiniest speck of micro dust visible on the sensor), and some toning and colour edits (I preferred to convert most of them into black and white except where the colour played a role in the making of the shot)
When I was done it was time for the test of horror: seeing the fantastic shots on other monitors. Needless to say, the result was horrific. I definitely need some calibration devices and I have no idea just how well you can see these shots as I intended them to be.
Here are a few other shots. Let me know what you think.
Just as my next-door house was being reclaimed, I gave my neighbours a hand removing some of the furniture left. And to my delight, one of the things the landlord did not want was very few boards about 50x70cm of cardboard, left by the architecture students who used to live there, and I was able to take them.
One of those boards was an brand new black acrylic board, still in film, and also a black, very thick cardboard of about the same size.
Immediately, I removed the film off one side of the acrylic, revealing the extremely shiny and beautiful black mirror, and set the black cardboard some distance to the back. I used the EOS M and EF-M 18-55mm STM lens for speed, and the YongNuo YN-622c triggers for two flashes.
And I got me the following shots. Not bad for a first try?
The photo on top was taken in natural light. The two below were taken with two flashguns (one 580ex, and one 430ex II)
Optimus in his Prime (flashguns)
The one drawback is that the surface of the black acrylic is literally a dust magnet. Dust that falls onto it sticks. Probably some static electricity from the removal of the film? Let's hope I can clean it up perfectly for the next item.
I have finally got a stage which I can use for macro photography, not by buying a microscopy stage, which is unlike me because I cannot really spend money, but by getting a custom-made rig which included a customized stage in it, taking it all apart and reassembling for my needs.
Cheaper on the long run as I can replace the camera to retrieve costs, with one drawback being limited to one-axis, but the movement can easily be controlled down to 0.1mm which is good. Also it is fitted on extruded aluminium, amounting to a quite heavy rig, so I'm less worried about movement when I simply lay it flat on a table.
Speaking of laying flat, taking the rig apart was a nightmare because of all the hex bolts which were completely stuck in place. It is those damn ribbed washers grabbing on the softer aluminium, or something, but it took a lot more than brute force to turn some of them, and two were stripped. I had to cause some cosmetic damage by grinding a slit into it with a dremmel tool and a metal cutting disc and then ground a flat head screwdriver's bit to fit into a car's spanner to apply enough torque to remove that stubborn last one.
The rig came with its own custom-made power source to power both a Canon 5Dmk II and a WFT E4 bII from mains, as well as a lightbox filled with surface-mount LED ribbons. The whole thing was great and self-contained, but it was laid out for a particular job where the focusing plane is the table that the rig is put on (to photograph printer samples to inspect ink spillage with a macro lens, which originally was a Schneider Kreuznach Makro-Iris Apo-Componon 45mm f4 mounted on its own routed aluminium mount. See three screw holes right under the camera). It needed taking apart so I could use the stage horizontally.
This photo on top was not "stacked" but at least it was focused using this stage, which allowed me to achieve a really nice plane of focus that could include the edge of the leaf, the pink anther, the tiny/mini flowers under the already-small big flower. I wouldn't be able to focus right where I wanted if it weren't for the stage. Forget handheld.
Info of the shot above:
Diameter of the rim of the biggest flower: approx 4mm
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II Lens: Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 macro
Extension tubes (I think I only used 31mm for this shot?)
Here are a couple %100 crops:
Stacking the next shot is in progress :D
Word of warning: DO NOT BUY CHEAP ALTERNATIVES. It is a losing investment.
I have bought one cheap macro focusing rail over two years ago. Never used it. This chinese cheap alternative is utterly useless. The gears do not match or hold your rig in position. It will wobble, and will not actually move forward/backward under the weight of the camera. I've been looking for focusing bellows as an alternative. I have bellows, but non-focusing type. A good quality focusing-bellows will be much more firm and will hold things in place better.
Do you need a stage or focusing bellows? The difference is the range and speed of movement. A stage move extremely slowly and is best suited for extreme macro. If you're doing flowers and still-life objects that are slightly larger, and do not need to stack that much (non-extreme macro), then a focusing bellows is the better combination of magnification+focus. A stage will still require some tinkering and extra pieces to get everything mounted appropriately.
Along the lines of infrared photography conversions that I hinted at in my last post, I've researching the possible effects that can be achieved by filtering different wavelenghts of light, I went back to a few shots I have taken on 02/07/2014 without a hotmirror on my Mamiya ZD digital back, and decided to play a little bit with them.
The effect, as you can see in the picture above, achieved entirely in Lightroom via whitebalance and HSL colour shifts, is pretty nice.
Here is another shot taken of the same scene on the same day, with the same camera/lens position, except I had the hotmirror on, and converted it to black and white. The shadows on the leaves is the biggest difference, and the reason why I chose the filtered one for BW, due to the texture on the dry leaves. Infrared reflected from foliage, which gives it its brighter character when captured in an infrared capable camera, also makes it a bit more flat as it loses the visible light's shadows.
I've been modifying pocket cameras for IR photography since my last post, but I also have a modified Canon 20D, so let me share with you a couple photos taken with an IR camera. This one is taken with my own Canon 20D and 18-135mm EF-S lens.
This is a lovely small bouquet given to me by my lovely wife. The flowers are very striking red and the greens are very green. This is what the picture looked like out of the camera. I like the dreamy, spirit-like feel of the stems in the IR.
Most IR shots are usually converted into black and white to give the impression of whiteness to vegetation while everything else seems normal. Here is a black and white version:
Feels like the stems can almost be transparent. The other very-common treatment of IR shots is to swap the red and blue channels. This can be done in Photoshop. I swapped the channels in Lightroom using a camera profile. Credit is given to this guy for the profiles. Thank you, guy.
Here is the image after some treatment. Profile is for Infrared, and I played around with colours to get it as close as possible to what I want. This is not yet what I want but the closes I could get it to.
In the last part of the 3-partite re-commissioning journey of my Mamiya C33 TLR, I work on the Sekor 80mm f2.8 lens in Seikosha shutter. Is this the dreaded silver-fronted one that every repairs person hates? I do not know. You tell me.
The problem was simple: aperture was completely jammed in place. The lever wouldn't even budge the slightest. I did not expect this to be oil on blades because it was completely frozen in place. I expected another mechanical problem, dirt in gears or something, so on to disassembly.
First of course you need to take the lens off the main plate. Using a lens spanner or a vernier caliper, turn the rear holding ring to unscrew it and pull the lens out. You cannot simply remove the bottom taking lens on its own. You have to start with the four screws around the viewing lens in order to free the sync-port which is connected to the shutter mechanism in the viewing lens.
Taking lens assembly with sync port
Then remove the yellow ring from the back to reveal the three little screws under it. These screws hold the external aperture arm. Get that out of the way.
The peripheral screws hold the whole assembly together. Take those out and brace yourself for disaster. Pull the front and back apart and LO! there are your shutter blades, all over the place!
These springs will also pop on the sides. There are four of them. If you opened the mechanism from the back like I did, do not worry about them as they will not go anywhere.
There are five blades in the shutter. I read somewhere that there is a fifth retaining blade (half-blade) but I only found five in mine. Maybe the sixth was already stuck to one of them? Maybe different models?
There was nothing to fix in the shutter mechanism or blades as it worked fine. So I left them aside on a white paper along with the front part of the mechanism, and headed towards the rear part, which is the aperture. This little arm below is what controls the aperture but it was completely jammed in place.
On the inside, this is the aperture. Remove the screws holding the black thing from the metal housing.
On the other side of this ring, the aperture blades were completely stuck as if they were glued. The dreaded oil was gummed up
To clean that up, I soaked the blades in isopropyl alcohol, and used cotton q-tips to clean them off, making sure they are layed flat on a hard surface to avoid irreversible accidents. These blades are extremely thin layers of metal (iron, they can be picked up with a magnet) and bending them the slightest is not an option.
This is the other wide of the aperture retaining ring. This is the part which turns when you slide the aperture arm. This stays in the metal housing, no need to remove it.
Putting the blades back in place is a very tricky business and you should get it quite right. Layer the leafs/blades as they should be, carefully install the upper retaining ring or tracks ring, make sure everything is in place, be very careful, double check, install the screws.
It should be very smooth with almost no resistance. Do not worry about it. Resistance will be back when you assemble the whole thing. But before you can put the front and rear part together, you need to put the shutter blades in place.
Putting the shutter blades in place is similar to assembling the aperture, but please note the side to which you put blades. I took the following pictures but I think I reversed the direction of the blades afterwards. Please note the pictures may be wrong, so I share them for illustration purposes only. Also for showing off.
The last part is to put the front and back parts of the entire lens together. You need to make sure the shutter blades stay in place and slide safely into the track ring as you close them in together. Keep the front part with the shutter blades flat on the table and mount the rear part upside down on top of it. Use a screwdriver or something to push the springs into the mechanism before you close it well, and fit the four screws.
This finishes the difficult part of the job and all that is left is to put the lens back together. The sync type (X and M) arm/ring is the trickier of the two. See if the following pictures can help you figure out how it should go. See that part part which bends inside the assembly and goes just behind the shutter release? You'll need tweezers or a screwdriver or anything similar to guide a small metal 'petal' into that bending part. This gives this arm its "click" when you switch the sync type.
See the sync arrow is pointing towards X. This is the best indicator as to how this ring should go.
Aperture arm, the last screws in the assembly and then the yellow ring back in place.
With the aperture arm and the yellow ring back in place, all screws fitted, the whole assembly is ready to do onto the main twin lens plate.
Fit the taking lens first. Very easy to orient it according to the little hole in the back. It is the same stud that holds the big yellow ring above. Simply fit correctly and screw on the rear ring.
Then fit the sync port. Do not forget the metal plate that connects the lower rear screw to the sync-electrode.
The viewing lens should be fine long as you keep the shims as they are.
Align the upper stud with the slit, and screw on the rear ring.
If everything goes well, you have a working twin lens.
In fact, the calibration process that I talked about in the last post was done after this aperture cleanup was finished. I wanted to make sure the two lenses were perfectly aligned. It is difficult to align them wrong, just don't strip your rear holding rings.
And because it all went well in my case, you get two more extra pictures.