The frequent waves of dust lately reminded me of some of my studies back in the days when I was in college. In geology classes, specially those related to mineralogy, we used to work with reflective microscopes to check specific properties of the minerals. One of those most important features was to find the refractive index, if I remember correctly, which could help greatly in identifying the mineral at hand. That feature was investigated using polarized light. All of these information was somewhere there in my mind and I thought: Why not?
Things are not similar, of course, between the situation in classes with prepared mineral sample and the dust at home with an old junky microscope. However, it was an interesting encounter nonetheless. I started by collecting a dust sample from the outside during the "storm" (the wind is not always strong enough to be called a storm though, so I prefer the term "dust wave"). The collection was done using a paper cup (though I really wanted something bigger) and leaving it outside for about one day or a bit less. Tiny amounts of dust accumulated there, so I washed the cup a bit with distilled water (the type used for car maintenance) and poured a little on the glass slide. Couldn't wait for the water to evaporate, so I placed a lamp (tungsten) close to the slide to dry it out and leave the residue only. And that's it! The sample was ready! All is left is to secure it with a glass cover glued with nail polish.
|Dust Sample - 40x|
First, I wanted to mimic the method of the reflective microscope as we used it the labs back in the day, and actually this is somewhat done by force; Because having a light going through the sample yields nothing but silhouettes! So, I had to close the aperture below the stage and move the light source (desk lamp with LED) a bit upward to shine the light over the surface of the slide and it worked like magic! To my surprise, the dust sample was not made of... dust! There were strange particles looming around and some round objects which might be pollen (and this is quite natural); But what about those other hard stuff? I did check dust and mineral samples before during my studies and I can definitely say this is nothing like it! Now imagine we are breathing this...
|Dust Sample (51.2x)|
Canon EOS 7D
After a simple mobile shot, it was the turn for more serious work with the DSLR. My main interest was this portion of the sample where a spherical object appears; I'm guessing it is pollen. Not sure though. For beginners, I kept my the magnification power low since going deep would squander about lot of details. Thus, I worked first with my usual 50mm lens in reverse (providing about 1.28x magnification) in combination of 40x (total) in the microscope, thus yielding about 51.2x in total magnification. Then, it was time to move to a higher level.
|Dust Sample (660x)|
Canon EOS 7D
On the next level of magnification, I've changed the lens to Voigtländer 20mm, which gives a magnification power of about 3.2x when reversed alone (using Vello Macrofier), but there is a little catch here. Extension tubes.
Adding extension tubes with this lens on reverse yields about 6.6x. Now this, combined with 100x on the microscope, yields about 660x! Probably for a reader these number don't mean much, but for someone working with a microscope AND a digital camera, it does make a difference, simply because framing the object of interest (our spherical body here) would change because the scene is under more magnification power. Thus, even after fixing the scene in the microscope with the naked eye, it would be adjusted again in terms of focus AND framing (by moving the glass slide on the stage of the microscope), which is quite a tedious work to be done. As expected here, the image quality at such a high magnification is not quite "sharp" or interesting as it was in lower magnification but it was just about enough to show those details on the surface of this spherical object which looks like the surface of Mars! I'm not sure if any of the stack images were shaken a bit during the making of the 660x image, but surely the color aberration and other distortions have their own effect on the quality of the image. I tried to reduce as much as I can and sharpen the image (after minimizing it).
As I've stated earlier, I was trying to mimic the work of a reflective microscope with this old piece of junk. Thus, I gave it a go and tried using a polarizer BUT on the lens (which was hard to control while fitted into Vello's Macrofier). Anyway, nothing interesting appeared and no change in the light level at all. I think the polarizing effect must be applied to the light source itself rather than on the lens receiving the light rays. I have also tried to shoot in infrared (just a quickie one) but, again, nothing interesting happened and the image was just in B&W and no additional gains. Now after this "little" work with this sample, I'm somewhat feeling the urge to collect more samples of dust (since we are on a roll here) or maybe work further on this very same sample looking for other features in it; I did see some stuff that might be of interest!
Just felt the need to add this section as a continuation for the post about the panorama I did few weeks ago. After completing the "regular" projection, I started stitching some other projections, and for the most part, I didn't bother myself in correcting the stitching errors as I'm not planning anything "big" with those projections; Yet.
|Escape The Shining|
I did a number of stitches but I won't bother listing all of them here, but I'd rather just show those which I think have some potential, like the one above, Escape The Shining. This one was done using Mercator vertical projection, with a twist, and I quite prefer it over the regular vertical projection. I still, though, regret the fact that I put the sofa to block the entrance which appears here in the upper left corner; It could have been all black and thus adding more to the symmetry and balance, I believe.
But probably the most beloved of all the versions I've made out of this panorama is the little planet projection, Planeta Effugium. Originally, it was less interesting really, but yet more plausible than its predecessor, the tunnel projection (the invert of this one). However, once I decided to play a bit and see the results, I got shocked somehow when I inverted the colors and the whole scene became like a negative slide. To add a bit to the twist, I've eliminated this inversion effect from the hand and the black space, the whole scene is somewhat a mix between original and inverted colors. I've also tried to make the whole image as a pure B&W but after many changes and fluctuations, I decided to leave it as it is and hence it became a bit red and yellow when colors were inverted (originally it had a hint of blue).
Well, IR950 is the name of one of the infrared filters I've got lately; A product from Neewer. The set of 4 filters was pretty cheap that I still can't believe they do really do some infrared work! But well, seems it works well so far. Except that, apparently, the make is not tight enough and the glass is shaking by now. I'm quite interested in this filter specifically because of its presumed property: threshold of 950nm. Which makes even higher than Kodak's infrared gel filter (87B) which has its threshold at about 820nm (or 830nm? Oh well). The 87B class of filters of such threshold are sometimes called X-Ray Infrared filters (just a mockery) for how they sometimes expose features under specific fabrics (with certain thickness of course), and this name was actually used in Neewer's title for this set of filters. These filters can also yield interesting results when shooting the skin, as they can show traces of veins, and this is something I need to work on a bit.
Sample shots done with IR950.
I've been testing all the filters in this test but I had a keen interest in IR950 as I said before. For fun, I started shooting (with the camera!) family members using the on-camera flash and raising ISO to the max point (12,800), as well as a quick selfie. Despite the high ISO, cleaning the images (in small sizes) was reasonable and some sharpness was added as well. Usually high ISOs, specially with cameras of cropped sensors like mine, produce a muddy-looking images, but probably the case is also different when it comes to infrared photography (even though classically, infrared images are known for their grainy soft look). The interesting thing here is: Usually, calibrating the white balance in-camera would not quite fix the problem with Photoshop when editing the RAW file. I'd still need to change the camera profile in Photoshop to Infrared profile in order to compensate for the limitation in the color temperature and tint in Photoshop. However, RAW files of shots done with IR950 do not behave that way despite being clearly infrared. They do appear as they were shot in-camera without any modification. Saying this, I just realized that I didn't check how the image would appear shooting with this filter WITHOUT calibrating the white balance in-camera.
|A Nose With Personality|
I like the tones of blacks and whites even before editing them in Photoshop; They attract attention, as well as fear at some point because of the contrast maybe, and that adds more surrealism to the subject I presume which triggered me to do this "funny"collage of my selfie and my brother's face in A Nose With Personality. In fact, some people did indeed state that it IS scary rather than just a funny surreal image! While bring on a roll, I didn't want to miss the chance to test this filter with a panorama of course.
Seeing how the sun shines through a window pane over the stairs at home, I got triggered to try to do something about this. I did in fact shoot many simple shots before and recently for this play of sun beams over the steps, but now it was time to put my IR950 to some good use and see. A panorama.
Now, because IR950 is a circular filter and must be attached to the lens front, I had no choice but to use my next option for panorama shooting; The Voigtländer 20mm lens. I've tested this lens before in shooting panoramas, and at the regular settings of my panorama-head (shooting at every 30 degrees and counting as much as 12 shots per circle) and generally speaking, not many stitching problems occurred. However, the displacement between one angle and another with such lens is quite large and for this, to avoid any mishaps in working in such narrow space like the stairs, I changed the setting on my panorama-head to 24 degrees, making a total of 15 shots per circle. This change is not only done to the horizontal swipe, but also to the vertical swipe as well; Instead of shooting at every 45 degrees up and down, this was changed to 30 degrees (thus shooting at 30 degrees AND 60 degrees, and finally 90 degrees if needed). Wander with your imagination and think of such amount of shots we need to complete one scene: (15x5)+2= 77 shots for one scene, and we are not speaking of HDR yet!
The first problem, in practice, was to settle the camera down on such stairs and make it balanced as much as possible. I can't say I've done this perfectly but I was hoping on fixing the issue later on when assigning the horizon line and fixing the vertical lines before stitching the panorama. However, another problem occurred here unfortunately; Many shots were featureless and could not be connected to others in the scene -and this somehow made me wish that I worked with the old settings of my panorama-head but it's too late now- and finally, I had to satisfy myself with some of the scene and cropping the rest that simply didn't work and stitch properly. You can see that I've added some sandals and shoes in Ghosted, as my main idea was actually confrontation but seeing how the tones turned out as typically as they are for this filter, I've changed my mind and let my mind wander to its darker side in assigning a title to this.
Not being a full panorama means there are limitations in projections and looks I can achieve with this panorama. For a try, I've used the vedutismo style in Ghosted II which added depth to the center while, supposedly, keeping straight verticals. To add drama a bit here, I didn't convert the panorama to B&W like its first predecessor, but rather inverted the colors like I did before in Planeta Effugium with some twist in blending to keep some areas original without inverting their colors. Yet more, I added some touches to improve the spooky look, like applying radial blur to an extra layer and blending it with soft light.
This is all to it for the time being and after this experience and this number of shots involved in this work, I might consider switching back shooting in 30 degrees with Voigtländer 20mm despite the hazard of having misplaced features or features not connected between two successive shots. This is of course when need arise.
On the other hand, there is still some thoughts and ideas I need to check about this filter and I do not have the capabilities to test it with. Like, does this filter really have a threshold of 950nm? After my bad experience with Tiffen's hot mirror, I hesitate to trust whatever the specs from the manufacturer say about the product. There is also the issue of the infrared source. According to Neewer's guideline, they propose each filter of different threshold to be used for specific conditions (and in dedication to landscape photography) with IR950 to be used under the harsh sun. This, however, doesn't work with me that way for sure and I need to explore my options with infrared sources and how do they react with the subject at hand; Specifically, the skin and whether the infrared source under question is good to show the veins under the skin in a photo, or penetrate specific fabrics (or even night vision as some claim). So much to discover with this filter alone, not mentioning the others as well.
I could've made the story longer here and talk about my shell collection and going back to documenting them but I think it is enough for the time being. I'll leave the issues of these shells for another time. There are more shells waiting to be documented.
Meanwhile, as I'm typing these words, I'm thinking seriously of leaving the Instagram community and gain some of my peace of mind (and more time to do other things), but the main issue here is the ridiculous updates and changes that Instagram comes up with every now and then. I'm still considering the idea though and didn't decide for sure yet. There is the issue of exposing and displaying my images to the public but probably it is not much of an impact, since I'm not getting many Likes on Instagram as well not comments; Thanks to some relatives and random visitors who appreciate what I do (or simply do it as a duty when it comes to my relatives).
There seems to be so much on my plate; Ideas, projects, experiments… yet seems I'm not doing much with them. I blame it on the summer and the heat that brings down all my strength but let's face it; I'm lazy after all. During this time, I'm waiting for my new passport to be issued, but would I really travel? I don't know. No plans whatsoever.
In poetry, I do have some words visiting and going and I'm really trying to force myself on writing it down. I just need that glitch in time between work and home (and responsibilities at home) to focus on writing. Unlike photography, writing coherent words and translating feelings on a paper (or typing them down) is probably as exhaustive as shooting a photo, or even more at times. Mentioning poetry, I was surprised that one of the poems that I've posted on Writing.com did get the 1st place award and a ribbon (with some award points with that). It came as surprise to me since I'm not checking my email in that website regularly and totally forgot about that contest within the website. Probably I've posted that poem here before, but I'm posting here again to finalize the post and leave you with it for reading it at your own pace, if you like!
Aman AmanNot black and white but splashing colors,
worldly, such a never ending course.
No left, no right, nor wrong or even just,
aman aman, nor my mind I can trust.
Aman aman, O trembling Bulbul,
tweeting loudly in a funeral?
How does your spirit work I wonder indeed,
for seldom a smile had been in my need.
Seldom does it shine, if would, it could,
for sorrows I never understood.
O Bulbul to whom the tweet and the dance?
or maybe a salute to some past romance?
Salute me by the morn or by noon,
whether under the heat or the moon.
Take this core where it never had befitted,
in hope! May my grinning face be permitted.
When the blooms of May may surrender,
and off life bereft be the tender.
Lull me O Bulbul, and put me to sleep,
Aman aman, my eyes need not to weep.