I’m very jealous of this guy’s capabilities. Weird and fascinating.
puncture in human skin made by a tattoo needle magnified 280x pic.twitter.com/XtuekOZZGd
— microscopic images. (@microscopicture) February 11, 2023
Today I intended to do some politics. I read a bunch of articles I checked the various dissidents to see what was ticking them off and I thought about “what this country really needs.”
And I came up with nada.
Basically, the Democrats are convinced they’ve won everything and the country backs them up 100%. And the GOP establishment think they’ve shut down Trump so they’re pretty smug too. Well, they’re both mostly wrong but since nothing works better than to give the people what they voted for I can’t think of a thing to say. Let’s see how bad they screw up the country this coming year.
So instead, I decided to have some fun today. I did a couple more of those focus stack macrophotography exercises on Nancy Pelosi’s prettier and more personable younger sister, Medusa.
So, this is kind of a bone of contention between Sony and me. They’ve never provided their cameras with a focus stack capability so I have to use work-arounds. There’s a Bluetooth remote “commander” that will send a signal to the camera to move the focus back or forth by a small increment and then I can trigger an exposure and then repeat the process by however many exposures needed to get everything in focus piece by piece. It works but it’s painfully manual. I also have a tiny software program on my laptop that automates the process but then I have to lug the laptop around in the field.
Other camera makers have added the programming to shoot focus brackets automatically in the camera. One camera maker, Olympus even has the camera “stack” the bracket into a single composite file automatically. Now there’s a company that loves its customers. Sony? Well miracle of miracles they just added bracketing to the brand new A7R V. So now the software exists in Sony’s system. Will they retrofit it into some of the more recent cameras through a firmware upgrade. Don’t make me laugh!
So here is poor photog, Sony’s laughing stock with his workarounds and his decade plus of Sony tone deaf customer service. Will he never learn?
Here are some of the bracketed files.
For the first stack I used six files. This didn’t quite get everything in focus in the first stack.
Next time I took sixteen files and the final product was a lot better.
When I was using the earlier Sony A7 cameras for insect macrophotography it was always a struggle to manage to get good focus on active insects like butterflies and bees. When magnified view appeared in the A7S (and elsewhere) I started using that to get really close focus on the heads of bees and other small critters. But the challenge was to perform the magnification button clicks and focusing before the little buggers moved on. And another complication is that only single auto-focus and manual focus work with magnified view, not continuous auto-focus.
So recently I decided to try using continuous auto-focus instead of magnified view with the active insects. And I’m satisfied that, all things considered, this is the better technique. Probably those coming from camera models with a longer history than Sony of competent auto-focus are not surprised by my finding. After all, continuous auto-focus isn’t a new technology. But it is to me. Having competent auto-focus on a Sony A7 camera is a relatively recent phenomenon.
What I think are the big advantages of this technique are really just the lack of the disadvantages that the magnified method has. With the continuous autofocus method there is no rush to try to restart the magnified view after every capture. This alone is worth a lot. Between continuous auto-focus and multiple shooting modes I can take a dozen shots in the three or four seconds it takes to get two shots using magnified view. And sometimes that is all the chance there is to get the shot. Looking at the results confirms that the number of keepers is much higher. Not to mention how much lower the annoyance and frustration levels are when shooting this way. It makes it easier to keep a handle on the environment and react to the movements of the insects faster. And this should be obvious. When in magnified view there’s no way to find the bug when it flies to a new location. You’re force to take the camera off your eye to find the insect again. Often, you’ll have to back it out of magnified view and start over once you relocate the target.
So, here’s my restating of the obvious but if it helps anyone else out there in Sony camera world then good.
Lately I’ve been changing the way I take macro shots of active insects like bumble bees. Previously I have used magnification and single AF. This works well for slow insects. But not as well for fast moving butterflies and bees. So talking to someone who does a lot macro he recommended continuous autofocus. So I tried it. One problem is that magnified view doesn’t work during continuous AF. But what I did find was that the keeper rate did improve greatly for fast movers like bumble bees.
And that got me thinking. A-mount lenses also don’t have magnified view in AF modes. So it occurred to me that these lenses would also become more accurate in continuous AF macro shots. So I tried out the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens and it worked quite well on larger insects like bumble bees and dragon flies. Then I tried it on really tiny flies and this was haphazard. For these I found throwing it into manual focus and using magnified view was the only way to get really tiny critters in perfect focus.
And that is limiting with live creatures in the outside environment where every puff of breeze ruins the focus. So this leads me to think that the 200 macro will be limited to larger insects. The Sony e-mount 90mm macro will be much better for the really tiny things. And for slower insects I’ll use magnified view and single AF. For faster bugs I’ll go with continuous AF and spray and pray I get the perfect shot.
So you might be saying to yourself, “Boy, that’s a weird looking one. What was he thinking putting that up?”
I’ll make a story out of it. Why not? It was a sort of an oddball day.
As I’ve noted, we’re in the silly season and I couldn’t bear to read about Joe Burden telling us about how he rassled with Vlad the Impaler and forced him to raise the price of oil to a thousand dollars a barrel to save the world from green house gasification.
So I spent today outside digging some weeds and planting some seeds and playing around with the camera. In fact I spent so much time that I lost track and actually filled up the 64 Gbyte memory card I had in the camera. Now it wasn’t empty when I started, far from it, but I got so wrapped up taking photos of bugs and flowers and mosses and mushrooms that I definitely took way too many shots. And that’s why someday I will have to do a massive purge of bad and mediocre images. I have something like a million files and I could easily get rid of 75% of them if I had the heart to face that task.
Believe it or not I have images many times worse than the ones I put up on the photo of the day! So I had to stop and empty out the files onto the desktop. But then I got distracted. I started looking through the images and I started liking some of them. And then I got playing around with them. I’d crop them mercilessly to see some tiny corner or center that had some geometric or pattern thing going on. And before I knew it the day had disappeared. But it was fun. So I figured I’d share the reverse order of what I was doing today.
So as you can see even weeding has its moments.
In the last four days of the “Photo of the Day” I used the original photo and the three progressively more extreme crops of the photo to highlight the question of when is something close enough Below I provide those four photos again and discuss what makes the correct magnification for a photo.
(As an aid for those using small screens you should be able to click on each photo and have it “fit” to your screen in a lightbox display. Then you can close that lightbox and move onto the next photo to repeat that process to get a full view of each photo on your screen.)
The first picture is the whole frame that I shot in the yard. The flower is floating in a background that inclues other flowers some more and some less in focus with the blurred view of the foliage and the ground as the distant background. This gives an effect somewhat akin to an impressionistic painting. The detail of the flower is only slightly visible.
In the first crop of the original I’ve isolated the flower with only some out of focus bright and shadow outlines to be seen behind it. Now it is clear that the flower has a lot of fine structure that includes what look like fuzz and small filaments of some type.
In the second crop of the original the flower fills the screen. Now the flower is seen to be more akin to some kind of burr with separate pistils and covered in spiky filaments and the filaments covered with finer filaments or hairs.
In the third and final crop we get an extreme magnification of the detail of the components of the flower. The surface of the pistils and the structure of the filaments is clear. The quality of the photo is decidedly poor due to pixilation of the image at such extreme magnification.
Okay, so which is the “correct” magnification? And of course there is no correct answer although we may be able to agree that he final crop is is the wrong answer. Cropping to an extreme magnification reveals the limits of the picture file. The number of pixels being used is very small and so a crude image results. This type of photo would only be appropriate for informational purposes such as a scientific paper discussing the structure of the plant.
So what about the first three photos?
Well, the first photo, the full frame originally taken, might appeal to some people because of the composition. The arrangement of the flowers and the background blur might be seen as soothing. So this photo is a viable choice.
The second photo is a little odd. The flower as I said above begins to show its spiky and complex structure while the background still exhibits the creamy softness of the blurred foliage. I sort of like it. There is some tension to the image. I find it interesting.
The third photo is a macro shot. I like macro. I like seeing the complexity of small living things. All the structure and detail interests me. I think this shot is the best magnification for my tatste.
The fourth shot as a mentioned above is technically poor. Maybe it could be used in a cheap monster movie. Now with a higher magnification lens like a 2X or a 3X macro and with the correct lighting and stage a really quality higher magnification image could be made of this plant’s fine structure. But I was in the yard and even the slightest wind would make that photo impossible.
So as you see there is no right answer, only preference or application. What you like or what you need. But just to show I appreciate everyone going through the exercise I’ll provide a survey below. You pick the magnification you think is best.
This summer has been an unmitigated failure as a butterfly photographing season. Whenever I’ve gone out with my macro lens and monopod the butterflies have been non-existent. I think I’ve gotten a half dozen shots of a monarch or two. But other than that it’s been the tiny butterflies or nothing.
So today at about 4pm I went out without my camera just to get a snootful of air and wandering by a garden that was in the afternoon shade I see this tiger swallowtail in perfect condition. The wings are vividly colored and there are no tatters at all. And maybe because it’s in the shade it’s completely unconcerned with my presence. Usually butterflies constantly scan their surroundings and reposition to avoid threats or even leave suddenly if they feel threatened. This one is unphased by my presence and I’m standing there behind it looking at the perfect shot of the flat open wings, without a camera!
I head back to the house mumbling and swearing about my lousy luck and I grab my rig and head back out. And it’s still there. But sure enough, as soon as I get into range it takes off. More grumbling and swearing. Now we’re in the more typical situation with the butterfly playing ring around the rosy with me, always keeping a flower between me and it. Well, I had had enough. Instead of my usual magnified view trying to get the perfect focus I set the autofocus to continuous and the trigger mode to multiple-hi speed and I machine gunned my way through hundreds of files while I actively chased that stupid insect around the yard.
Was I successful? We’ll see. But it was satisfying to use modern technology to defeat the annoying strategies of a creature whose brain is about the size of a poppy seed.
“That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
As noted earlier I had a touch of cabin fever so I decided to try my first outdoor focus stack. What this means is that I have to drag along a laptop computer and a tethering line in addition to the camera and tripod. All of this is easy enough. What isn’t easy is telling the wind to stop blowing for the requisite two or three minutes of exposure time. And in fact, this picture is cropped as tightly as it is because some leaves were blowing around in the debris pile. Looking at it now I also note that the left side shoot is a little over exposed. So let us say as art it’s slightly underwhelming. But as an experiment in field macrophotography technique it will be “required reading at the Academy.”