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Both Sides at Once Macro - Part 2


I'm retired and living in Northamptonshire, so plenty of time for photography.
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Both Sides at Once Macro - Part 2

21 Jan 2021 9:36AM   Views : 902 Unique : 467

The diagram below shows the configuration I used:

The top half of the set up is a conventional macro configuration, using a normal copy stand. I am using an EOS R and a Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens.

The lower part, which provides the image of the other side of the subject, uses a plane mirror and a fast prime lens, with the ‘camera’ side of the lens facing the subject. The subject platform is attached to a cheap focus slide. An inverted ‘aerial’ image of the subject is then formed in the plane of the subject, and can be displaced relative to the subject by moving the lower lens, enabling composition. Its really weird working out which way to move it!

The ‘aerial’ image has to be set to focus in the same plane as the subject, by moving the platform up and down; adjusting the focus on the lower lens won't make any difference. The magnification of this 'relay' optics will be automatically 1:1 as the image distance will be the same as the object distance. The camera lens then has to be focused on the subject and its reflection. So two focus steps are needed, and it is iterative to get both in focus, so patience needed. Live view was almost essential for this.

I first tried this with a simple lens element removed from an old pair of binoculars, but it had too much aberration. See the picture of the dead fly below.

The lower lens has to be camera quality – and fast – otherwise the reflected image will be much dimmer than the main image. The light has to go through the relay lens twice, so the coatings etc have to be good and modern, otherwise contrast will suffer. My best results were with a 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.2. Canon lenses work but I’m not sure Nikon lenses will, as I think they default to closing the aperture when off camera (am I right?)

Woodlice! Surprisingly elegant from both sides! The reflected side is always inverted with respect to the prime image
At the top and bottom of the frame is another woodlouse, a different species. Here I haven’t edited out the inevitable dust from the platform and the bugs!

Snails can be quite beautiful when not eating your plants.

At this magnification, they are really speedy though! Motion blur in a snail pic would you believe...

Wasp! Had to calm this one down with a bit of jam. She was released unharmed though.

Moth! This was calmed by a spell in the fridge… but revived quickly… filled up on grape juice and again released unharmed (after signing the model release form). I particularly liked seeing the eyes, which look mainly down, so you don't see them in conventional shots.

This was an interesting and exciting project, but the imaging had some limitations…

Field size was only around 25mm diameter, so won't work with large subjects (may be ways round this with different relay lens - maybe a fast large format or a tilt shift with a large image circle. A short focal length telescope mirror might be an alternative but probably challenging on height of the whole set up. I have a plan to make a 1metre diameter mirror out of reflective foil so I can try portraiture like this... but that will need several more months of lockdown. You can see from the shot below some of the field and dust/ debris challenges, as well as the difficulties getting a snail to pose. They just don't listen!

Lighting was challenging – flare was hard to suppress from the lower half of the set up. I did think about using an old film camera with the back and shutter open for the lower part of the set up but it would have needed a weak diverging lens (concave - opposite to a normal close up lens) above the mirror to push the plane of focus safely above that of the shutter. Dust on the platform was really difficult to remove. Plenty of work needed in post processing. Thanks to member Janet (chase) for suggestions here – but I quite liked just a little bit of dust left to define the image plane. Focus stacking should work, and simplify the need to get both images in exact focus, but it will be difficult to stop the subjects moving (even snails)!

Get in touch if you are interested in more details! Also send me comments. Thanks for reading and for your interest.

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