Tabletop Bellows Rig Upgrades

Have questions about the equipment used for macro- or micro- photography? Post those questions in this forum.

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PaulFurman
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Tabletop Bellows Rig Upgrades

Post by PaulFurman »

This is about the 4th generation of my setup and is working very nicely now.
I added a rotation stage, rearranged the x,y positioners and added wide legs with sorbothane cushioning.

Image Image
Image Image Image

The spider is the one shown in the setup shots, sitting on a leaf. I felt bad about killing it so documented it from all angles at least. I tried sedating it with vodka then it started waking up and the second dose was too much. It took maybe 20 minutes to pass out the first time and woke in about 5 or 10 minutes. Anyways apologies for the fairly uninteresting photos, I promise to do something nice with the rig.

I'll follow up with a reply describing the details of the equipment in a bit.

The BAT
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Post by The BAT »

Hi Paul,
Great rig mate, I'm looking forward to your follow-up.
Interesting techniques that you are trying out on your subjects, have you thought about a career with the guys down Guantanamo Bay way?
Using a 'Washboard' technique might be a bit cheaper than drowning things in Vodka? But I certainly like your style. . . . hehehe
Bruce

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Paul, thanks for the pictures. I'm fascinated to see how many ways these rigs can be put together. My sympathies about the demise of the spider. I haven't had much success with reversible anesthesia either.

Bruce, I'm not sure I understand the references to Guantanamo Bay et.al. As a matter of forum policy, we like to keep the discussion focused on photographic issues. Specimen prep certainly falls in that category, but I have no idea what it would mean to "Washboard" a spider. I did find one on the floor the other night that looked like it had gone through a wringer, but I think the cat had something to do with that. Certainly not a result I'd recommend for a photo specimen in any case. :roll:

--Rik

PaulFurman
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Post by PaulFurman »

This is about the 4th generation of my setup and is working very nicely now.
I added a rotation stage, rearranged the x,y positioners and added wide legs with sorbothane cushioning.
Spider on Leaf
I like having a clear background so this is designed to hold the subject up and allow me to place things behind it like colored cloth or backlight, etc. The spider closeups show that. If the subject won't simply sit there, mounting can be a big challenge and facing down would be a lot easier like a microscope but this is a comfortable way to work, viewing the LCD screen in live view. Tethered to a computer would be even better and no problem for a vertical rig. I might figure out a way to tilt this thing vertically with some screw-on wood feet.

Miniature Melles Griot 07 TRT 508 rotation stage
As discussed in Andrew's posting I can just reach my finger in & nudge the edge for all the control I need, it moves easily and smoothly. Notice the closeness of the lens at 13x magnification in the detail shot and how the small rotation stage allows me to get close with the subject in the center. There is a screw on the rotation stage in that shot, useful for some situations. You can see a piece of cork set aside that fits in the larger center hole for pins. Flowers will mostly work with their stem in the hole. In the overall view you can see where I sawed off the aluminum brackets to get the lens close, that needs to be painted black to reduce flare on the lens.

Another way to go might be a large rotation stage on the bottom. When tilted, the rotation acts differently.

X,Y Positioners from Salvage Shop
-original gear before re-assembly
These are not ideal but workable. I've modified their position many times and they were originally for a totally different tilt/shift bag bellows rig. They just let me move the subject into the frame allowing a pretty good range for subjects from 1x to 13x. They don't need to be terribly precise but the vertical Y positioner needs to not creep down, which is OK with this but it's stiff & takes some finger muscle. I wish they were shorter to get the subject in the center of the goniometer rotation but I like having a pretty large range of movement. In an ideal world, there'd be small x,y positioners on top and a large set on the bottom.That's mounted to the next level with a walnut wood plate.

Melles Griot Tilt/Goniometer
pdf spec sheet for current models, this is comparable to 07 GON 501, the largest available. Again, this was originally for a different rig so maybe not the most appropriate but the large 2-inch/50mm center allows for positioning larger subjects at the center (if I had smaller X,Y positioners. This thing has a large range of movement too although that's not so critical if you position the subject close first. The micrometer knob takes a heck of a lot of turns to wind up. It's a big sturdy brass piece of hardware originally needed to hold the camera which a small one wouldn't do.

Lenses

Olympus 20mm f/2 bellows macro lens for 2.4x to 13x work.

Below, dismounted, is a Canon MP-B 35mm f/2.8 for 2x to 6x work. Best at f/4.

Both of those seem best at their widest. My crude taped mounts don't allow them to go wider. For full frame 35mm there aren't many options. I have got excellent results at 1x with an 80mm f/5.6 El-Nikkor, I don't have the 50mm.

This compact rig isn't well suited to larger lenses and I can't mount the camera without the bellows. The position & range of the bellows is critical for best balance and distance depending on what lenses being used. Trial & error is the only real way to decide, or more focus rails for flexibility.

Nikon PB-4 Bellows
The tilt/shift model (not necessary with stacking) with front-standard-mounted micrometer. The micrometer is great for detailed stacking work, the only drawbacks are you can't back up on fine focus easily and the small 9mm range is no good for larger subjects. I could drop in a shim for getting to the next level if needed though.

E2 pre-Ai short extension ring 11mm to give room for plugging in the MC-20 remote release in portrait mode.

Bellows raised on round grip metal extension plate from Calumet and a little further with wood blocks. It would be nice if this was adjustable and if I could mount the camera direct without bellows.

Nikon D700 camera (D200 backup)
Live view is very very useful. Full frame 35mm maybe doesn't make sense for macro, I'm tempted to get a mirrorless micro-4/3 camera for this macro bellows work. In an ideal world it might be an expensive sensor-in-a-box as used for astrophotography on a telescope.

Base/Sorbothane
Stage and bellows on 9x4" poplar wood. I liked it with only this for portability to the field but the upgraded legs give improved stability. Maybe some way to quickly unscrew the legs would be nice.

Applewood legs 2x2x 11" (from grandpa's orchard), on 4 layers of sorbothane cushion. I ordered a 12-inch slab of 1/4-inch material for $40 taxed & shipped from McMaster-Carr and cut it up with scissors, experimenting for the right effect. I chose an intermediate/soft Durometer Hardness of
40 OO which is pretty squishy and ended up using half of it in the photos above, 4 layers thick. The other matching 4 pads sit under the table legs of the 4-foot wood table that I work on and they are really squished down severely.

As implemented here, it's not a magic solution, just provides a little improvement with shake problems. With live view zoomed in at 13x, if I tap on the table or stomp on the floor, the sorbothane moderates the jarring by perhaps 50% and it quells the reverberation by more than 50%. I can probably safely walk or move during a long exposure if I'm careful but not carelessly bump the table or stomp around the room without effect. Tapping the camera or table firmly without the cushion makes a violent motion, with the cushion it's less violent but not gone. If too many layers of this soft material are used, it takes a while for the swaying to die out. You need to experiment and the layers are good for that. It is sticky so the layers glue to themselves easily.

I tried a tall stack before adding the wide wood legs and it swayed a lot, that's why I added the spread legs.

I experimented with the shot-glass method of measuring vibration/resonance and made some useful observations. The size and depth of the vessel changes the resonance and the water has it's own weight so it reflects the water's momentum more than the surface it's sitting on. But by looking at the zoomed live view & tapping around, I got a sense for the timing/resonance of the rig's movement and matched a water vessel to that approximate timing in order to see something relevant in the wavering reflections. That said, I'm not the most methodical scientist so it's entirely possible I missed the optimal sorbothane solution here. It's also possible this whole squishy thing has introduced slow movements that mess up sharpness... more tests needed as always...

Lighting: overhead Projector on it's side
Yeah, this looks like overkill but I found it on the sidewalk for free and it works nicely as it puts off a large area of light, not a point source, which is already quite soft, then I hang some translucent material to soften it some more.

I can move the rig closer to the reflecting arm for very focused bright light or hang some tissue on it as a fill reflector. The most intense focused light is good for examining things stopped down to decide what to look at in a long tedious stack

In the detail shot you can see how I hang various milk jug sections over the subject and tissues for even softer lighting and to darken things a bit for long steady exposures. Too short of an exposure and the shutter vibration impacts sharpness but the bright light is great for focusing and positioning.

PaulFurman
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Post by PaulFurman »

The reference is to waterboard torture and I felt bad for the poor thing watching it gasping for 20 minutes then seeing it wake up at high magnification, twitching. A few weeks ago I went down to the back yard with a jar to capture spiders and the nice vegetarian neighbor lady gave me a guilt trip so I tried some hand held shots. Sigh. I don't have a huge problem with the killing but it's motivation to at least know what I'm doing and be able to get some good shots. It is distressing when I don't even end up with anything to show for the violence.

I would feel better if I could administer some gentle nitrous oxide/laughing gas and be able to quickly catch a nice clean stack, then set the beast free.

A refrigerated room *would* be ideal. It's possible outside in early morning. Or get a mini fridge and put the camera in there with a tent for the door and a sleeve to reach in & turn the stepper. That would make a nice soft box for lighting too, and serve as a clean-room with a filter on the fan <g>.

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

PaulFurman wrote:I would feel better if I could administer some gentle nitrous oxide/laughing gas and be able to quickly catch a nice clean stack, then set the beast free.
CO2 works for some species, but there are huge variations in sensitivity. Some spiders fall down immediately and stay that way for minutes even after the CO2 is removed; others are hard to knock out and wake up almost instantly. Even the ones that fall down immediately are likely to keep moving a little at high magnification. I was able to get a nice portrait of a hobo spider by dosing it with CO2, but I failed utterly to get a decent picture of its spinnarets because they kept wiggling. And even though that spider appeared to wake up nicely after the CO2 was removed, the next morning I found it dead, cause unknown but timing suspicious. I think there's no getting around the concept that if you interfere in the beasts' lives, you have to take responsibility for that. Try not to let the guilt trips get too bad. Last I checked, even edible veggies were grown by getting rid of bugs one way or another.

--Rik

PaulFurman
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Post by PaulFurman »

PaulFurman wrote:
Base/Sorbothane
BTW, I tried the 30-pound cobblestone/concrete with a bolt and it didn't help. Perhaps because it was rather tall and that made it sway on the squishy pads.

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