First Post

Images taken in a controlled environment or with a posed subject. All subject types.

Moderators: ChrisR, Chris S., Pau, rjlittlefield

LSRasmussen
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:21 am
Location: Denmark
Contact:

First Post

Post by LSRasmussen »

Hi Everyone,

My name is Lars Rasmussen and I've been lurking her for a few weeks. I've done a lot of macro over the last 2 years but it's only through this site that I've been educated about stacking. As a result I've been building my own stacking rig and it saw first light this weekend. Based on my preliminary results I have a few questions that I would like to ask the experts. First, here's my first 2 results :

Fungus on leaf (Overview) :

Image

Fungus on leaf (Stack) :

Image

The obligatory ant head shot (Stack) :

Image

There's further info and full size images in my web gallery. (See end of post)

Now, I do realize that I need to pay attention to my lighting technique, currently it's done by a single SB600 flash. So my first question is really along the line of what is the alternative ? Optical fiber light or the new Luxeon LED's. I do have a few 80 lumen white (5500K) Luxeon's and I'm thinking about using these. Will they be powerfull enough ?

How much do you clean up the finished image after stacking ? Here I'm thinking about artifacts. background etc. Is this considered "cheating" ? ;-)

I'm currently using a reversed Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 together with a TC201 in order to reach 10:1. Do you consider it better to remove the TC and extend the bellows (PB-4) further instead ?

Is there anything in the sample images that indicate that I need to use a finer step between my source images ? I'm currently using 0.02mm.

If you look at my sample images, do you see any signs of vibration ?
(I'm not sure what to look for !)
I'll post a picture of my rig tomorrow in the Equipment section.

Finally I would like to thank everybody here for a fantastic resource on this specialized area. You've all been a great help and inspiration to me.

Best regards

Lars Rasmussen

Ken Ramos
Posts: 7176
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2006 2:12 pm
Location: lat=35.4005&lon=-81.9841

Post by Ken Ramos »

Welcome to the forums Lars. :D I do not know diddly about stacking and most of it is over my head, leaving me one of the point and shoot types. I am sure you will recieve a lot of good knowledgable information concerning your images as there are quite a few great "stackers" here. :D

rjlittlefield
Site Admin
Posts: 20882
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2006 8:34 am
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA
Contact:

Post by rjlittlefield »

Lars,

Welcome aboard! :D

These images look like a great start. To answer your questions...

The biggest improvement you can make in lighting is to add a lot of diffusion. Wrap some sort of "light tent" around your subject. This can be as simple as a layer of facial tissue or a white styrofoam cup. Other possibilities are half of a translucent plastic ball (pingpong or whiffle, for example), or a plastic Christmas ball sprayed translucent white, and so on. Practically anything will work as long as the subject is mostly illuminated by indirect light, not direct from the flash.

If you switch to either optical fiber or LEDs, you will still need to add diffusion. Having a small light source will always produce harsh shadows. The shinier the subject, the more you need diffuse lighting.

In the images you have posted, I don't see any evidence of vibration. But I gather that these are full frames, resized for the forum. Vibration is not usually bad enough to show up at that scale. You would have to look at the actual pixels, or post out an actual-pixels crop for us to look at, to get a better idea.

Since you are using flash, probably you do not have a problem with vibration. However, if you switch to continuous illumination, then vibration can become a big issue at higher magnifications. Often it is effective to lower the illumination level and use a longer exposure. In many of my setups, vibration is a problem if I shoot at 1/10 second, but shooting at 1 full second is OK. It depends entirely on the mechanics of your setup.

Step size of 0.02 mm should be fine for that lens and magnification. I don't see any problem in the pictures. You may want a finer step if you switch to microscope objective at some point, but for an f/2.8 lens at 10:1, 0.02 mm seems about right.

I have not tested recently, but I would expect only a small improvement by going with more extension instead of the TC. Less glass is usually better, but at these high magnifications your resolution mostly depends on the relationship between main lens and the subject. That relationship would change only a little between 5:1 x 2X TC with a shorter extension, and 10:1 with more extension and no TC.

Any sort of cleanup is fair game -- clone, crop, sharpen, level adjust, noise reduce -- whatever it takes to make a good image. If the postprocessing is unusual or extensive, tell us very briefly what you did. And if it alters the natural appearance of the subject, definitely tell us that.

BTW, it would be a great help if you could include the technical information directly here in the forum. Going someplace else to get it is a little disruptive. Also, in the past a lot of information has gotten lost when it was only on somebody else's web site and got deleted after a while.

One last thing, I notice in the middle of your second image there are some areas that look blurred or moist. Given the nature of the subject, I suspect that these areas suffer from "stacking mush". This is an artifact that occurs when image detail is either too low contrast or not sharp enough for the software to identify the proper frames. You can tell by checking your original frames. If the original frames contain detail where the merged image does not, then you know you have mush. In that case, since you are using CombineZM, I recommend to download the most recent version (18th of April) and try Do Stack or Do Soft Stack instead of Do Weighted Average. Or, if you are more adventurous, download a copy of TuFuse and run that on images that have been aligned by CombineZM and saved with Export Rectangles.

Again, your images look good. Is it possible to see that fungus even bigger? A crop, maybe?

--Rik

LSRasmussen
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:21 am
Location: Denmark
Contact:

Post by LSRasmussen »

Hello Ken & Rik,

Thanks for the kind words and for the extensive reply. To take it from the top, I do use a diffuser on the SB600 but I do realize it's not enough. I've seen the use of tabletennisballs and I'll try to do something similar when I have my LED lightsources ready. I didn't think about that vibration would be frozen (and eliminated) by the flash so I guess that might be an additional problem I have to deal with once I start using the LED's. This brings me to another question, is it better to use slow shutter speeds as oposed to fast shutter speeds ?

With respect to my choice of lens and TC, I'm quite surprised at the level of detail that is captured by this combination. However, when looking at the 100% crop from the fungus shot (included below), I do realize that it's not as sharp as it could be. I'm going to experiment with my 24mm and 35mm Nikkors with and without the TC to see if I can improve the resolution. If not, I'll have to go and see if I can find a microscope objective somewhere.

The fungus 100% crop (Sorry for the dust bunny !!):

Image

Regarding the technical info on my pictures, point taken ! ;-)

Also, you (Rik) suggest that I try to use the Do Soft Stack macro in CZM. Funny thing is that I'm running the latest version, but I don't have that macro in the menu. I'll try to re-install the software and see if it appears.

Finally, I'm going to post a picture of my rig in the Equipment discussion section tonight. Improvement suggestions are welcome ! ;-)

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond,

Best regards

Lars

lauriek
Posts: 2402
Joined: Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:57 am
Location: South East UK
Contact:

Post by lauriek »

To enable the new soft-stack macro you need to either uninstall the old version before installing the new one, or simply remove the configuration file which defines the macro list before installing. I forget the name of that file and I am at work at the moment so cannot check!

Harold Gough
Posts: 5786
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:17 am
Location: Reading, Berkshire, England

Post by Harold Gough »

Although given in reply to a question about stacking, Rik's point about lighting is valid generally in macro and close-up work. I always use one main flash plus a weaker one, sometimes also a third, also weaker, one.

The exception is with some ringflash shots but I have yet to refine my technique.

Harold
My images are a medium for sharing some of my experiences: they are not me.

Erland R.N.
Posts: 335
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 5:20 pm
Location: Kolding, Denmark
Contact:

Post by Erland R.N. »

Welcome aboard Lars.
I hope we can get out and photograph a bit together later in the year.

Erland

rjlittlefield
Site Admin
Posts: 20882
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2006 8:34 am
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA
Contact:

Post by rjlittlefield »

About the macros, I'm not sure that uninstalling and re-installing CombineZM is enough to fix up the macros. I have a vague recollection that if you ever saved or loaded macros using an earlier version, whatever you ended up with will be retained in a new installation. But there is a Restore Standard Macros menu entry -- try clicking that.

About the diffuser, it helps to think about things from the standpoint of the subject. Adding a diffuser to the flash head still means that all the light is coming from somewhere on the flash head. But wrapping a light tent around the subject means that light is coming from all directions, albeit more strongly from the general vicinity of the flash.

About the resolution, be sure to run a test series to find the best aperture (if you have not already done that). Lots of people find that the 50 mm f/2.8 EL Nikkor is actually best around f/5.6. It's hard to predict. My 38 mm f/2.8 Olympus bellows lens actually is best wide open, though the difference from f/4 is pretty small. See here for some discussion.

(Edited to add) About the shutter speeds, you'll have to experiment to see what works. For high mag work I've never been able to pump enough light continuously to use a really short shutter speed like 1/1000 second. Typically it would be more like 1/30 or slower. That's not short enough to freeze vibration, and it's not long enough to let it die out either. So I guess I'd say that with continuous illumination, long is better (as is more mass, more rigidity, and more damping).

--Rik

acerola
Posts: 251
Joined: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:28 pm
Location: Hungary
Contact:

Post by acerola »

Good start.
Péter

LSRasmussen
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:21 am
Location: Denmark
Contact:

Post by LSRasmussen »

Hi All,

Thanks for all the replies. Rik, your suggestion to restore standard macros in CZM worked like a charm. I'm actually running the macro as I write this. Yes, I've done some tests with respect to the optimum aperture. 4 and 5.6 are really close on my 28mm. I'm now planning to try the same tests with my 24mm f/2 and 35mm f/2 Nikkor lenses. I think my main issue right now is lighting and I expect to have my LED test setup ready for the weekend. I've just been playing around with pingpong balls and they seem perfect to use as diffusers. If I get some improvements I'll post them ;-)

Erland, great to see you here as well ! With a bit of luck I should know more about our planned macro trip to Myrthuegaard later this week. Loved your toad pictures by the way ! ;-)

//Lars

beetleman
Posts: 3578
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:19 am
Location: Southern New Hampshire USA

Post by beetleman »

Welcome to the forums Lars. It sure looks like your lurking is working out very well with your first post. I am looking forward to more posts. Take care.

Doug
Take Nothing but Pictures--Leave Nothing but Footprints.
Doug Breda

Harold Gough
Posts: 5786
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:17 am
Location: Reading, Berkshire, England

Post by Harold Gough »

Harold Gough wrote:Although given in reply to a question about stacking, Rik's point about lighting is valid generally in macro and close-up work. I always use one main flash plus a weaker one, sometimes also a third, also weaker, one.

The exception is with some ringflash shots but I have yet to refine my technique.

Harold
Having used ringflash on some very shiny beetles, I find that the bright ring of light tends to show up, distorted (often very much so, by the three-dimensional surface of the subject, as bright highlights. That is with a flash which is somewhat diffused at source.

http://www.alanwood.net/photography/oly ... flash.html

More conventional flash is preferable for such subjects.

http://www.alanwood.net/photography/oly ... flash.html

Harold
My images are a medium for sharing some of my experiences: they are not me.

tpe
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2007 4:07 am
Location: Copenhagen Denmark

Post by tpe »

Hi Lars, good to see there are some more macro fans based in denmark. That is quite a set up you have there. I have played with similar stuff, and am using a sony dslr. I have a couple of microscope lenses i could probably lend you if you really are in need. Just contact me at timevison at hotmail dot com if you are interested. I am in Copenhagen, where are you? Best of luck with your endevours, they seem to be turning out very well indeed.

Tim

Post Reply Previous topicNext topic