Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shooting Through a Microscope

We previously covered different macro options including using macro lenses, extension tubes, lens converters, close-up filters, and free lensing techniques. There's another option to get really close, which involves shooting through a microscope.

Why would you want to shoot with a microscope? It can get you much closer, much more macro, than the typical macro options. It can give you a new perspective on the same old stuff, and add abstract and scientific elements to your images. Plus, it's fun and something new to experiment with!

My first attempt was with an entry level microscope trying to shoot through the lens with no lens adapter. This did not work so well. The images were out of focus and blurry. On my second attempt, I used a Hassleblad to Canon EOS microscope adapter, which uses bellows as an extension. This also did not allow the camera to get close enough to focus.

You know the saying "third time is a charm"? Well, it was true for me in this series of experiments with microscope shooting. On the third try, I used a Nikon Naturescope, which magnifies at 20X and it a front lit microscope (side note: most entry level scopes use back-light for the subject illumination). It uses 1- AA battery to power two LED lights beside the lens.

The Naturescope allowed me to use anything I could fit into the approx 4x6 platform. Items photographed were: A US Penny, a digital camera circuit board, a stiff bristle brush, and a leaf. They were shot with a Nikon D90 and the attachment from the Naturescope. Most shots were taken at F11.

a normal shot to show the items used

a penny, magnified 20x

circuit board at 20x

brush bristles at 20x

a leaf at 20x


It may take a little practice, but here's a few tips that I found useful:

- You may need to use a higher ISO setting to be able to keep your shutter speed and apertures high enough due to the light.

- Shoot with a remote or use the self-timer function (the slightest movement
translates into blur)

- Be patient

- Brace the camera (put it on a tripod or similar device)

- Use the live view function if your camera has it


* Click here for any in-stock scopes at KEH.com
* Enter the Nikon Microscopy Small World Competition (entries due 4/30)


© Patrick Douglas