Thursday, July 6, 2017


Here I am, back after a little vacation away from this blog for the Eid event (and actually not having time to type it down!). I've been spending Eid sleeping most of the time as I'm trying to fix my sleeping time, but I did some work with my camera and I will talk about some of it in this post. Moreover, I did receive my shipments and I'm trying to find an opportunity to try them out. Anyway, I might keep the talk about these stuff for another post, as most of them are actually accessories and spare parts.

Murder of Colors

This is the title of a little series I've made, again, with colored feathers as a part of June project with the group which was themed "Abstract." Initially, the idea was to take a shot for some feathers, set randomly, from below with a wide angle lens, in hope that the distortion would serve me here to create an interesting attraction. However, many difficulties occurred, specially with the method of lighting with the speedlites, and after trying many times, I had to give up the idea and do a typical abstract approach as my mind is usually set to go: Macro.

Murder of Colors I
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Changing to macro required a change of in the setting of course, so I placed the speedlites below the set (feathers were sprinkled randomly on a plastic or acrylic sheet) while I shoot them from above using the wireless function in my Canon EOS 7D to control speedlites via infrared. As it is not a matter of HSS, then infrared function can be used with comfort (HSS is not active when controlling flashes via wireless, unless with a special trigger). In this series, I moved from using the usual extension tubes with whatever lens, to reversing the lens with my Vello Macrofier. This method is a saver indeed, as it doesn't add more weight to the camera (which I'm going to shoot with by hand and no tripod), and apparently it does not have all the complications that accompany extension tubes when it comes to the focal plane placement and whether or not the focusing point would be in front of the lens or behind it (which deems it impossible).

Murder of Colors II
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
I was set to use Voigtländer 20mm lens on reverse here, as according to my calculations (which I've found out they were wrong later) that it would give a magnification of 2.5X, while using 50mm lens would give about 1X. I needed something extra here to avoid the typical zooming level that I've used previously in most of my abstracts. Also, to get some extra details out of the lines in the feathers. In this series which consists of merely 3 shots (after sorting them out), I think I prefer Murder of Colors I the most, as it has this glow and vibrant coloration, and some strange color cast from one feather onto another (mainly on the yellow feather).

Murder of Colors III
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Unfortunately though, I didn't document this simple set for Murder of Colors, and at the moment, I've just realized that there is a whole different series done with feathers which I've totally forgot about despite being uploaded to stock sites already (and accepted by most)! Anyway, I might try to post about that series later. Seems that my busy schedule (or let's say me getting myself busy schedule) made some gaps in my memory! However, I'm happy for one thing, which is finally having an exact calculation method to estimate the magnification level, but that did not come by while working on Murder of Colors series, but rather later, as I was working with my microscope!

Reverse Magnification

Vello Macrofier
Source: B&H
I talked about how I was wrong with some of my calculations regarding the magnification when using Lens Reversing method. Generally speaking, it is supposed to be just like the calculations done with Coupling Lenses technique, where two lenses are connected in reverse to each other and onto the camera; In this method, the magnification is measured by finding the ratio between first lens (attached to camera) and the reversed lens. I could not really find a concrete formula for magnification by reversing the lens directly onto the camera, but I presumed that the focal length should be 50mm or around that, as it is the "normal" focal length. By that, the magnification is to be calculated as 50/FL, where FL is the reversed lens focal length.
However, as I'm working with my old microscope, I got my interest back again and I started searching again, and all I could find is actually practical method to measure the magnification by shooting rulers and finding the ratio between millimeters in the image and the actual width of the sensor. Doing that practically with a ruler did break my believe about the ratio of 50/FL stated above, and I started to look for the source of that difference, as the magnification ratio with a reversed Voigtländer 20mm which is supposed to be about 2.5X, proved to be higher than that (around 3.2X!).
This made me investigate the specs of my camera again and trying to find the true distance between sensor and the mount (a.k.a. flange focal distance), and to my surprise, it was indeed not 50mm as I was thinking, but 44mm. Yet, this didn't explain the results and I just realized the fact that the Vello Macrofier does add some distance further away from the sensor and it should be added (which was about 20mm). By this, the total distance away from the sensor becomes: 44mm + 20mm = 64mm. Thus, doing the magnification ratio again with this value: 64mm / 20mm (for Voigtländer lens) that would yield 3.2X indeed as measured practically with a ruler (values had been approximated of course and rounded to one decimal place).

The flange place for DSLR (top) and
Mirrorless (bottom) indicated by Red.
Source: Wikipedia
With this result I'm more likely to rely on reversing the lens for my macro shots more than using tubes or lenses coupling, or even using my 100mm macro lens. Even though using a dedicated macro lens has its own benefits of course and its quality. Nevertheless, reversing the lens with Vello Macrofier makes the job easier (specially that it offers an aperture control) and better focusing distance than with extension tubes. To elaborate further, again with Voigtländer 20mm lens, as per calculations, using extension tubes to gain a proper 2X magnification or a bit more with this lens, would yield a focusing point behind the lens front (which is impossible); While using reverse lens method, this enables me to get 3.2X with proper focusing distance (in millimeters of course) in front of the lens. Also, I can add filters (UV at least) to the lens front when in reverse just to increase the distance to the sensor (which I did already and gained about 3.7X). There is a whole new world to be discovered with this method, which made me think of having a specially made hood for my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens to enable fitting adapters to the front of the lens. If this worked right, then I might be able to gain 8X just like a breeze!


Well, the upper part to explain the reverse lens magnification was ignited by this ongoing project of shooting objects under the microscope. I have this microscope since I was 14, and instead of leaving it to collect some dust, I've decided to put it to use with my camera, specially after surfing the net and finding new methods to shoot through the microscope without using a special mount and adapter. Mostly, a point-and-shoot cameras are used for this task (or webcam sometimes) but all I have here is two DSLRs with LOT of possibilities.

My set for shooting through my old microscope.
Using two 12W LEDs to light the set properly.
Well, the hardest part was (and still) making the set ready. My microscope is an old one with one eyepiece protruding upward and even though I can tilt the microscope but I have to keep it standing as it is because the samples I make are usually, well, not professional ones and can easily slide down. Here comes the hard part, with setting the camera (and rail) on the top of the eyepiece, and the small tea table did not make things go easier either. It's a matter of weight lifting and sometimes balancing the tripod with the lateral arm on top or it would fall over. Nevertheless, I made it with many samples and triggered me to do another research for better ways to stack focus my images (a single image won't do here).


The beginning was with some of the colored feathers that I've already used many times for my abstract. There are many problems that are already there before I even think of shooting through the microscope. However, I'm not intending on producing Book-Quality images after all (otherwise, I do have a friend to help me with that). As can be seen in Lamina, which was shot from a red feather, such single shots do not bear much depth of field. Thus, there was a call for focus stacking, and this time by changing the focus in the microscope itself, not moving the camera and rail combination.

Hair Bulb

Typically, I would think of Photoshop as the main tool to focus stack my shots, but again, I've realized that however smooth I'd go with the focus, Photoshop would still give out some bad blends as can be seen in Hair Bulb. This shot was is probably one of the fewest that I did with 40X objective on this microscope (and thus reaching total magnification of about 1280X). Zooming so deep sometimes makes a loss of some good details, as well as it is hard to light even with external sources such as two LED bulbs. These discrepancies made me aware of the fact that Photoshop, and like the case with panorama stitching, is not the best solution for the task at hand. And again I go looking for other solutions.

Hair Bulb (Enfuse)
I've found many software dedicated to focus stacking and most of them were to be purchased, at the end I've found one freeware which is actually dedicated to blend HDR images, but according to some tutorials I've found, it can be used for focus stacking successfully: EnfuseGUI (the man deserves some donation there!). In the tutorials they use Hugin (another freeware for panorama stitching) to align images, but I've found that it is a command-line thing and needs quite a patience here! Thus, just for aligning my images, I used Photoshop back again (and cropping some excesses). No need to go to the details of the process here, but the results of using Enfuse can be seen on Hair Bulb (Enfuse), where the blend had been much better. I was not lucky all the time though, and most of the time with other stacks, I have to stack on stages (blending portions and then sub-portions, then sub-sub-portions... etc) which takes some time but the results are far more fit than what Photoshop could do. Did Adobe fix such issues in new editions of Photoshop? I really don't know, as I'm using CS5 and got no plans to go beyond that for the time being.

A Study of 20 Fils
One of the struggles of focus stacking with microscope images is to achieve some 3D-ish look when shooting various specimens. Using external light sources got me the advantage of viewing metallic opaque objects, such as coins, specifically this 20 Fils which I did inspect long time ago by in-camera macro methods  (using lens coupling) and reached about 17X power. The story is different now and I'm able to few the metallic texture up and close! However, there is always the annoyance of artifacts from this old microscope but the fun lingers on. To this moment of typing this post there are still more work going on with some coins which I might post later.
As I've stated before, the fact that I'm using a lens on reverse enables me to add filters to the lens' front and consequently this would also increase the magnification ratio a bit because the distance to the sensor is stretched few millimeters. But to my own experience now, I have to say that having super magnification is not always what you want or need, simply because it might obscure details!

Banana Peel

With filters, seems like I'm having different worlds to discover; Something I'm working on still. Probably the most astonishing view I had so far is that one with Banana Peel which was my first target to use infrared filter (B+W 092, threshold: 650nm). Things were dark and hard to see at first, and I had to raise the ISO to max just to navigate through, but I put it down when I saw something that captured my eyes…

Banana Peel under Infrared

The image you see above is of course the final product of focus stacking and infrared processing, as well as channel swapping. However, these marks were glowing in my LiveView while the rest of the peel (same peel posted above that) was dark while using this filter. I showed my friend this image and told him the story but we both were astonished and could not find a reason for this. The thing is, doing infrared shots for other materials did not yield such result!

Grape Skin (IR)

Grape Skin (Normal)

I think this matter needs more picture taking to find if this thing is really significant for bananas only or there was something wrong with the microscope or my camera! However, I'll keep looking further for more samples to do. Despite being a tiresome job to do with this microscope and the heavy cumbersome gear that I have to deal with, it is still a good source of muse, specially with the arrival of my new H-alpha filter from Lumicon, which I'm dying to use (artistically and scientifically, if I can call it so!).


I guess this post is long enough as it is now and no need to talk about my new acquired stuff. This is beside not trying them out yet and having any thoughts about them. The Summer is scorching my head as usual and with me back to work after a long vacation during Ramadhan doesn't make things better for either mood or body, but I'm trying to muse myself with the camera and the new stuff. July project with the group is also ongoing right now and somewhat adds a bit of burden to my time which I want to dedicate further to my new toys and activities. Everyone, Everywhere I look, talks about traveling, I guess this is natural since it is Summer, a typical season, but it makes me drool and my mind is busy calculating to see and plan for some vacation outside, before I commit a murder or something. Anyway, my traveling is typically after the busy season, to have some "quiet" time. Yet, my mind is not set yet on a specific destination, nor I'm sure about my budget. Meanwhile, my only companion seems to be my headphone, and the heat…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

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