30 Oct 2014

Macro Power Up: Enter Stage Focusing

Canon 5DmkII, Tamron 90mm f2.8, 31mm ext.tube, 5"/f8@ISO100, Incandescent light 

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?)
Incandescent light

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.

8 Oct 2014

Shot in Full Spectrum

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.

6 Oct 2014

IR Flowers

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.