Monday, 28 November 2011

How To: Take Freaky Macro Pictures

Necessity is the mother of invention. We are always looking for such necessities, which can lead to innovative solutions in technology.
How To: Take Freaky Macro Pictures
Necessity is the mother of invention and we are always looking for such necessities to give us the opportunity to invent! Now this may not really be a ‘necessity’ at the core for the audience of this workshop but then which photography enthusiast would not like to have the option of using or at least trying macro photography the way it should be. On a camera’s macro mode, you can still shoot minute things such as flower buds, sea shells, grains of rice etc but imagine going deeper into their details and seeing much more with the naked eye. And then going a step further and actually capturing that minute detail clearly and definitively on a consumer digicam. 

Most digital camera models available today have the ‘Macro’ mode feature. This workshop will help advance the utility of this feature and help you go much deeper into the details of your subject. For instance, you will clearly be able to see (of course, only if you manage to acquire and put these below the lens) the proboscis of a mosquito, the deadly fangs of a red ant, the finely netted texture of fabric, and even the single dot of a printed ‘i’ alphabet on paper. 

Below are the things you need to gather to make a macro lens at home and put up a lighting suite to capture your subjects in great detail. This workshop is not completely inexpensive but needs to be carried out at your own risk. You need to unscrew one of the eyepieces of a binocular or telescope - not those crazy expensive ones, nor the ones which are too cheap. The one we used in this workshop was an entry-level telescope eyepiece (25 mm and 12 mm). The telescope eyepiece is easily detachable so you don’t need to worry about breaking it. 

Lighting Panel: 
You need to a buy a bread board, align and solder white light LEDs on it to make a lighting panel and use it as the light source beneath or around the subject. Divide the lighting panel and the subject using a white flimsy plastic card or an ordinary white paper which basically functions as a light diffuser. Creating the lighting panel can be tedious for some and you could try using other lighting techniques or sources. You can use a white bulb or LED torch and find an optimum distance between the diffuser by trial and error.

Attaching The Lens: 
After you have removed the lens from the telescope, the next step is to mount it to your camera’s lens. Use a normal clear adhesive tape to stick the eyepiece on the camera’s lens. But you need to be very careful while you do so to ensure that the lining of the tape is neatly aligned with the lens. This will ensure that when your camera draws back its lens, the tape does not damage, block or jam the path of the lens entry. Look at the images to get a glimpse of how we carefully mounted the lens on our camera (Canon PowerShot A720 IS).
First three steps
First three steps

Now, that your camera is ready for use with the attached lens with required lighting, all you need is a tripod (as you need immense stability for this type of photography) and a few subjects! In our case, still in the primary enthusiasm of setting up the project, we went on a wild hunt to find subjects. 

Photographic Subjects: 
We got all sorts and varieties of samples to test our kit and its macro potential. We brought back to the lab, a mosquito, a spider, a piece of sponge and an ant. Besides these, we shot other things like the surface of paper, the edge of a ripped business card, a handkerchief and almost everything that fit on our card-sized diffuser. We also got an image of a cellphone TFT screen which clearly shows you the RGB pixels. We must warn you that this is very addictive and in the first few days, you will find yourself making a subject of just about everything around you.
Steps 4-6
Steps 4-6

The procedure is fairly simple once you have set up your kit properly. Mount your camera on a tripod and have it perpendicular to the LED panel placed on a table with a white diffuser sheet on it. Switch your camera to ‘Macro’ mode and set the aperture to the least. In our case, we used an aperture of 3.2. Do not worry, if your camera is almost touching the subject—the optimum distance between the subject and the lens should be a few millimeters. The camera should automatically focus on the subject. If it does not, then the following could be the troublesome areas:

  • The subject is moving (it needs to be dead or inanimate!)
  • The camera is not set according to the light. The flash should be turned off.
  • Do not zoom in or the camera will not be able to focus on the subject.

So, there you go! Have all the fun with your new obsession!
Some cool samples
Some cool samples

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