Extreme Macrophotography

Since it takes many, many hours and sometimes tens of thousands of pictures, my models are usually dead. Read on, and you realize why. Here, I describe how I handle them.

My setup for portraits

Portraits are shot horizontally. So I am using a full frame camera such as my Nikon D750 combined with a 60mm 2x macro lens made by Laowa. Since depth of field up close is so shallow (about 5/10 of a milimeter), you need to mechanically advance the camera with the lens, take one picture at a time and later combine those layers to one picture. This process is called stacking. As my stacking rail, I am using a cognisys package.

Light is created with 3-5 flash guns.

Portrait setup, at least 2 more flashes would be used horizontally.

Math: A fly is about 2 cm long. You therefore need at least 40 pictures. Between each picture I wait 15 seconds to make sure every flash is completely recharged. (All pictures need to have exactly the same brightnes). So 40 x 15 seconds means 10 minutes of shooting time.

My setup for overview shots

I do shoot overviews of beatles or butterflies from above with a full frame camera. Most of my pictures are made with a Nikon D600 (I am on my second now). The optics are 25mm 2.8 5x from Laowa. Now that we are in the highes magnification possible with regular camera lenses, the challenges are manyfold:

  • Depht of field is 1/20 mm
  • Camera Shake would create unsharp picures
  • A 5 x enlargement means your pictures represents a fingernail of the subject
  • You will need a lot of light
Installation for Stack n Stitch. Computer not shown.

So if we have a medium size butterfly, you end up with many rows and columns to take pictures from. So you need to move very precisely between the different spots. In comparison to the portrait-photography where you move in 1 direction, you have to move in 3 directions. Z (vertically) and x/y.

This butterfly takes > 160 stacks.

The above moth will need over 160 different stacks. The average amount of pictures for each stack is 60 pictures. 160×70 = 11’600 pictures. – A professional camera rates for 250’000 actuations. –

You can’t use a flash. For once, the batteries are empty after 200 flashes and the time needed (think 15 secs recharge) would be enormous. And no flash would survive 10’000 releases. So I am using bright LED lights. I still need 3 seconds to move, flip up the mirror, wait and open the shutter for 1/125 sec. To make sure, no vibrations remain in the system, the process takes 3 seconds. 3×36’000 = 30 hours of photography.

Hopefully everything was planned right. I once did a cockroach but did not take into account that they have relatively long legs. I took about 24’000 pictures. While stitching the pictures together I realized that the overlay calculated between two pictures was far too small – I was missing information between pictures. So after many many hours of taking pictures and stacking (a large stack can take up to 20 minutes of high power computer time to calculate the combined picture), I realized that it was a complete failure. I won’t give up. More to come…

(Visited 36 times, 1 visits today)