Nikon Small World Update

I’m very honored! – My image of jumping spider eyes came in 3rd place in the annual Nikon Small World photomicrography competition.

Below: Phidippus audax’s anterior median eyes from a head-on perspective.

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I’ve been waiting to enter the Nikon Small World photomicrography competition since age 15 when I first started doing photomicrography, as you have to be 18 to enter. This past year was the first that I was eligible to submit my work, so I’m very excited to have finally been able to participate in the competition.

I used my photomicrography rig (written about below) to get this image. It took nearly 80 individual frames – focus stacked – to get the extended depth of field, each taken at 4 micron increments on the Y-axis.

A few people have asked me where on earth I found this creature and they’re always very surprised when I tell them, “right in my suburban backyard in Connecticut.” It’s true – these beautiful creatures, full of vibrant colors and exquisite textures and patterns are right beneath our feet every day. Taking the time to look is a very rewarding experience for which, unfortunately, those of us up north will have to wait a few months.

Insect eyes are one of my favorite subjects to photograph as the geometric arrays, particularly when it comes to compound eyes, are simply astounding. I also find insect vision to be a fascinating topic of study in general. If you’re interested, you can learn more about insect vision here.

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Best of Belize 2013 – Part 1

My trip to Belize is only half way through and I’ve already managed to take more than 4500 photos!

One of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, Belize is home to a wide variety of insect life. This, combined with its relatively unique tropical ecosystems, makes it a great place for macro photography.

ImageBeetle

  • Canon 60D – MP-E65 Macro Lens
  • 1/200, f/9, ISO 100

ImageDamselfly

  • Canon 60D – 100mm Macro Lens
  • 1/400, f/3.5, ISO 320

ImageLeafhopper

  • Canon 60D – MP-E65 Macro Lens
  • 1/200, f/9, ISO 100

ImageOrchid Bee in mid-flight

  • Canon 60D – 100mm Macro Lens
  • 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 800

ImageJumping Spider

  • Canon 60D – MP-E65 Macro Lens
  • 1/200, f/9, ISO 100

Here, up in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest, there is very little light pollution which means that, on cloudless nights, the sky overflows with brilliant stars. At the top right, you can see part of the Milky Way (the whitish looking part of the sky).

ImagePalm tree at night

  • Canon 60D – Canon 50mm f/1.4
  • 15 seconds, f/1.4, ISO 1000

 

More to come…

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Featured Guest Article

I’m very excited to be featured on WeAreSoPhoto’s website!

Check out the interview here.

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Incredible Insect Eyes

I’ve always been fascinated by insects’ eyes because they contain such a large amount of fine detail and texture. What appear as tiny black specks to the naked eye are in fact immaculate geometric structures.

An ant’s eye:

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  • Nikon M Plan 20x/0.4 ELWD
  • 121 images (focus stacked) at 4 micron increments
  • photos of setup

Because of their reflective nature, the eyes are rather difficult to light at extremely high magnifications. For the image above, I wrapped a tissue around the lens and the subject then positioned the flash an inch or so above the tissue.

Here’s a robber fly and a closeup look at its eye.

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Apparently, insects with compound eyes see the world in a way that’s comparable to looking through a kaleidoscope.

Finally, here’s a 50x magnification shot of a fly’s eye. Each of the hexagonal facets (called ommatidia) is a fraction of the width of a human hair.

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  • Nikon CF Plan 50X 0.55 EPI ELWD
  • 44 images (focus stacked) at 1 micron increments
  • photos of setup

If you’d like to see more of my extra high-mag photos, please visit the “Extreme Magnification” gallery on my website.

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My New High Magnification Photo Rig

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After two years of scavenging through the local junkyard and eBay, I’ve finally finished collecting all the components and building my studio rig for high magnification photography. While I was able to shoot at relatively high magnifications before (10x), I can now go even higher (50x plus) and my new rig makes the whole process much more fluid.

One of the main differences between this and a normal camera is the lens. To achieve the high magnification, I use objective lenses designed for microscopes. The system of multi-axis rails which can be seen in the photo above allows me to very precisely shift the subject up, down, left, right, forward, and back. This is useful because when working at high magnifications, even a very small shift (~1mm) could move the subject completely out of the frame. The two large black discs on the bottom left are each 10lb weights to keep the camera stand sturdy and mitigate unintended movements.

If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering why I need all this equipment just to take a photo. Let me explain: All the photos I take with this rig are in fact composites of a large number of individual images. The thing is, at high magnifications, depth of field (the amount of area in focus) becomes increasingly razor thin. In other words, looking through the viewfinder, you can only see a small sliver of the subject because the rest is out of focus. To compensate for this, I use a technique called focus stacking. For those of you familiar with photographic jargon, suffice it to say that focus stacking is like HDR photography but rather than bracketing for exposure, you’re bracketing for focus. In essence, focus stacking is the best way to extend the depth of field without sacrificing image quality.

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To get all of these individual images, I use a microscope focusing block (the large light-grey rectangular box on the left) which allows me to move the camera in increments of down to 1 micron (1 millionth of a meter). Later on, using focus stacking software, the photos are all combined, bringing together the sharpest part of each image, to form an all-in-focus composite.

The following animation (sped up) shows you exactly what the stacking software does.  (it may take a little while to load…)

focus_stack_animation-Nmacro_Blog

Below are some additional photos I’ve taken with the new rig.

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Carpenter Bee – focus stacked (42 images)

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Fly – focus stacked (116 images)

If you’d like to see more of my focus stacking work, please visit the “Studio Shots” gallery on my website.

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