Stacking setup for the mayfly eyes, August 2006

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rjlittlefield
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Stacking setup for the mayfly eyes, August 2006

Post by rjlittlefield »

For those who were curious, here's the setup that I used to shoot the mayfly eyes.

Image

The major components are:
1. machinist's 2-axis screw-driven table (www.use-enco.com, #201-2826)
2. Canon Digital Rebel camera.
3. Olympus bellows (eBay)
4. Olympus-to-Canon mount adapter (homebrew, see picture here)
5. Olympus 38mm f/2.8 bellows macro lens (eBay)
6. 2-axis focusing rail (Adorama)
7. small Giottos ballhead
8. small square of aluminum with balsa glued to it
9. fiber optic halogen illuminator (eBay)
10. half of a pingpong ball
11. backlight (40-watt flood on dimmer, in mailing tube. There's a slot in the mailing tube to insert filters, like colored paper.)
12. wood and screws to hold everything together (OK, a little duct tape too)
13. small forceps holding mayfly (not visible here, see third picture below)

Image

Image

This is basically the same setup that I used to shoot the click beetle stacks (postA, postB), just with a different bellows and lens. A similar setup, using floodlamps on adjustable arms instead of the fiber illuminator & pingpong ball, did many of my earlier stacking efforts.

The operating principles of this rig are identical to what Charlie Krebs described doing with his microscope in this posting. This one is a lot bigger and clunkier (to the dismay of my wife!) but it can handle a pretty wide range of subject sizes. Also the whole setup can be tilted so the subject stays horizontal while the camera shoots down at various angles. I've used that feature a couple of times to handle subjects that might be tricky to nail down, such as a jumping spider and a really badly machined setscrew.

I make no claims that this rig is the best way to handle any of these problems! It has evolved in response to what I wanted to do, what equipment I had to play with, and what screwy ideas I had every step along the way. Probably there are a lot better ways to get the same or better results, and I hope to hear about them next week. :D

--Rik

Mike B in OKlahoma
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Post by Mike B in OKlahoma »

A dramatic setup! And I see now how you restrained the mayfly for those shots. I may use some version of that idea. I've been thinking about catching some damselflies and/or dragonflies and getting some closeup shots of the head with my MP-E-65. I'd thought the solution to do that without killing or permanently harming would be to cool the insects down and let them return to normal temperature naturally in some safe place after I was done. Your technique may be less intrusive, though I"m not sure, and I'll have to think about it.
Mike Broderick
Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Constructive critiques of my pictures, and reposts in this forum for purposes of critique are welcome

"I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul....My mandate includes weird bugs."
--Calvin

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

...without killing or permanently harming...
It's an attractive thought.

As I wrote elsewhere, this particular mayfly ended up much the worse for wear due to some strong chemistry. In my experience, it's really hard to make an insect not move for an extended period of time, while still allowing it to recover completely. Chilling is hard to maintain in a photo setup, and it's hard to get enough but not too much chemical anesthesia.

In the end, I have to balance the value of the photos against the value of the insect's life, bearing in mind that most individual bugs never manage to reproduce even without me around.

If I can attract a few more people to seriously appreciating these little critters and considering what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis to keep things running so they have a place too, then I figure a good tradeoff has been made.

--Rik

Mike B in OKlahoma
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Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 10:32 pm
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Post by Mike B in OKlahoma »

Yep, I prefer to think of myself as the good and benevolent guy who does no harm. But your point that 99.9% (or whatever the actual figure is) of these insects are bird or fish or frog food is a good one.
Mike Broderick
Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Constructive critiques of my pictures, and reposts in this forum for purposes of critique are welcome

"I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul....My mandate includes weird bugs."
--Calvin

Carl_Constantine
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Post by Carl_Constantine »

That is an AMAZINING setup Rick. You're making me jealous. Seriously.

But thank you for that insight. I truely appreciate it.
Carl B. Constantine

Charles Krebs
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Post by Charles Krebs »

Rik... thanks for posting this, it's fun to see peoples set-ups.
Probably there are a lot better ways to get the same or better results, and I hope to hear about them next week.
I'm not so sure, looks good to me :wink:

Since I suspect there will be interest in this, I hope you don't mind if I throw in a couple comments that others might consider.

A caution "flag" that pops up in my mind it having the fiber optic illuminator in hard contact with the platform holding the subject. Looking at your results (and knowing that you are obsessive about eliminating vibration), it would appear that there is no ill effect on your "sharpness" caused by vibration from the cooling fan. I have used a few illuminators, and some (not all) seemed to be not quite as "perfectly" balanced as one would wish. So it might be worthwhile to advise others to check for harmful vibration effects.

Also, some people might wonder about the need for the machinist slide, and why you have not simply moved the camera/bellows via the tripod block on the bellows. As can be seen, the method you employ allows you to support/brace the camera at multiple points... critical for minimizing vibration from the camera shutter. In addition, it is very difficult to move any camera bellows or camera focus rail in the tiny increments needed, and without very slight up/down or left/right "jiggle" that makes it difficult to obtain a really good "stack".

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Charles Krebs wrote:Since I suspect there will be interest in this, I hope you don't mind if I throw in a couple comments that others might consider.

A caution "flag" that pops up in my mind it having the fiber optic illuminator in hard contact with the platform holding the subject. Looking at your results (and knowing that you are obsessive about eliminating vibration), it would appear that there is no ill effect on your "sharpness" caused by vibration from the cooling fan. I have used a few illuminators, and some (not all) seemed to be not quite as "perfectly" balanced as one would wish. So it might be worthwhile to advise others to check for harmful vibration effects.

Also, some people might wonder about the need for the machinist slide, and why you have not simply moved the camera/bellows via the tripod block on the bellows. As can be seen, the method you employ allows you to support/brace the camera at multiple points... critical for minimizing vibration from the camera shutter. In addition, it is very difficult to move any camera bellows or camera focus rail in the tiny increments needed, and without very slight up/down or left/right "jiggle" that makes it difficult to obtain a really good "stack".
Charlie, thanks for noting these points.

You are correct that I worried like crazy about illuminator vibration. It may well be that I got lucky with this particular unit. Yes, anyone attempting to duplicate this setup should test first with the illuminator completely isolated from the specimen stage.

The fineness of motion is also a critical point. Using the screw drive on the table, it is fairly easy for me to maintain consistent 0.0005" spacing such as on the mayfly pictures. For higher magnification work like the click beetle stacks, I was forced by limited DOF to use 0.0002" spacing (5 microns). That's at the limit of this setup's capabilities, even using an auxiliary vernier scale (not shown). If I tried to do that using the tripod block of the bellows, the required step would be about 1/4000 rotation (1/10 degree!) of the gear on the tripod block -- simply not feasible without additional gearing that would have cost more than the table I already had.

--Rik

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