Friday, June 12, 2009

Sweating the small stuff

Bug portrait

There's an alternate universe right under our noses that doesn't often get our attention. Yeah, there's the bigness of outer space. As Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe put it,

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

But space goes on infinitely in both directions. If you turn in the opposite way, you encounter a world of bigness on a small scale. Fantastic, exotic creatures and landscapes are everywhere, disguised as ordinary plants and insects.

I've been messing about with macro photography over the past week and had some limited success with using closeup filters on a lens zoomed at 200mm. But that's just peanuts compared to what I came up with yesterday. Lens reversal. I had experimented with it before and gotten some OK results, but abandoned it because it's tough to use the technique in available light.

Yesterday the thought occurred to me to combine lens reversal with flash. So ... I put a 50mm prime lens on my Nikon DSLR, then placed another 50mm prime lens on the first lens with the rear element facing out then taped the lenses securely together. A half-inch area now becomes a 10 megapixel image, with sharpness across nearly the entire image plane.

I attached a flash, outfitted with a reflector and diffuser, onto a bracket grip, then oriented everything to rain soft light down toward the end of the lens, which must be placed a fraction of an inch from the subject (which is why shooting available light is so tough -- the lens blocks most of the light). I opened the reversed lens to full aperture and set the normally mounted lens to f/16. Shutter speed was dialed to to 1/125th, camera set to ISO 400 and I set off to explore the world of small.

This photo was taken while walking through a local forest preserve. The bug was standing on the tassels of some grass. I moved in with the camera very slowly and fired as the bug's head came into focus. If anyone can help me ID this insect (and subsequent insects yet to be posted) I'd appreciate it.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.


Wanda said...

I don't have a clue what kind of bug that is.... But I do know you get the best shots ever!


Laurie said...

Fascinating technique which has yielded amazing results. I am interested in how you have dialed the aperture in the reversed lens? Is it an older one with manual aperture adjustment if not how do you lock the aperture setting? I have a couple of really old manual lenses but their diameter does not match any of my other lenses, so I doubt I could try it. It does sound very interesting.

James said...

The two lenses are older manual focus and aperture Nikkor 50mm f/1.8s. The lens attached to the camera is set at f/16 and the one connected face-to-face to it is wide open. Until I'm rich enough to afford a macro lens, I'll use this setup.