Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seeing small things

I love the macro feature of my camera but the camera I love to use best, a Panasonic DMC FX3, can't focus very closely, only about 2" from the subject. The other camera I bought mostly because of it's close macro ability and superior optics has proven to be a cumbersome beast so I rarely use it. That camera a Canon A620 is by no means a large camera and tiny compared to a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. Without add on lenses can focus down to an incredible 1cm which is about 3/8", giving you an extreme macro view of the subject which I wish the Panasonic could do.

I had an old pair of compact 10x25 mm binoculars which I took apart because the roof prism came loose in one of the tubes but had difficulty putting it back together again. The optics weren't particularly good so I just kept the objective lenses (the big front lens which in the case of a compact binocular isn't very large) to use as a magnifying lens. I also found out why these low end Bushnell binocs were so cheap - the lenses were scratched or had pits and other imperfections that were unnoticed when using it to look at far objects. "You pays fer whatcha get".

I was looking at some macro sites and noticed that a person used a magnifying glass, actually an eye loupe, handheld in front of his camera and was able to take astounding photos using this method. He eventually made a mount so he could easily attach and remove the magnifying lens.

So, I tried hand holding one of the objective lens, touching the front housing of the Panasonic camera and took these photos. I also bought an extra battery for the camera on Ebay from a vendor in HongKong and the battery didn't seem like it was holding much of a charge so this was the perfect time to test the battery and handheld lens.

I'm happy to say the battery worked better than expected and I am extremely happy with the results of the lens experiment. The photos are not a close as I can get with the Canon and it isn't as sharply focused but I like the results better. This is a subject (subjectively liking photos produced by one camera more than another) I'll write more about later.

A Lobelia 'Crystal Palace' with tiny red-eyed fly. The fly was only about the size of a rice grain or smaller.

I think this is an Angelonia.

Looking like sea anemones waving their arms, the close up of the Ageratum looks quite interesting with its honey comb pattern of unopened petals.

Another Angelonia? I did notice that the camera had a bit of difficulty taking pictures of very small flowers. Or it could have been the wind or me moving about but some of the photos turned out slightly blurred.

I love the green jewel-like stigma of the Petunia. Flowers have such exotic colors and structures. I would not have seen this amazing sight with my naked eyes. Please click on the photo to see an enlargement.

A plain wax begonia I wouldn't normally give a second glance to becomes something quite entrancing.

A multi-colored Salvia.

A white 'Bronze Whiskey' begonia. If you compare this photo with the 'Whiskey' begonia in the previous post, you can see that I was able to approximately double the size of the image using the add on lens.

I would never have noticed the clear water droplet like structures along the stigma of the toad lily had I not used the add on ersatz macro lens.

More pictures to come. I had a productive photo session, shooting more than 250 shots to run the battery down.


Anonymous Anthony said...

Great shots! You may be onto something with this new magnifying glass trick. I'll have to give it a shot.

Of course I'd love to just buy a new camera with a great macro lens but it's not in the budget. :)

7:54 AM  
Blogger kate said...


It is amazing to see the intricate structures of these flowers ... they are all so beautiful and each is unique. Your photographs are all so clear and give us a lovely view into the minute secrets of flowers.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Vanillalotus said...

That is some close of shots. They really enhance the small things you never would have noticed on a flower unless you stuck your face in it. I love the centers of the begonias they look like little yellow banana bunches. The angelonia and the lobelia have interesting shapes. It's always funny when you catch a little bug on a flower.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Anthony,
If you use a plain magnifying glass, it may not be color corrected and you may see strange color streaks or fringing in some of the photos. Usually binocular lens and eye loupes are color corrected multiple glued glass lens but they are more expensive. I think I bought the Bushnell binocs for about $10 at a sale many years ago so that's a pretty cheap way to obtain good lenses if you can stand the destruction of a perfectly good instrument. I can even add the second lens and get even more magnification but I'll have to make a holder to be able to use it. This is a great way to use your old camera and still get some useful life out of it.


Hi Kate,
It is fun to discover new things about the flowers one considers ordinary. I usually gloss over these tiny blooms but they are as complex and colorful as their large counterparts when viewed at the macro level. I'll post more pictures so I hope you'll return to view those too. I shot a lot of pictures and have only posted the best so my skills still need to be honed and I need to make a more permanent mount for the extra lens.


Hi Vanilla Lotus,
That is the problem with small flowers i.e. having to literally stick your nose into the flower to see the beautiful structures. I guess small bugs pollinate small flowers. ;) As you mentioned the Lobelia and Angelonia have the same type of extended lower petal/s but I'm finding that a lot of the smaller flowers have the same structure. I wonder what the advantage that design has for attracting pollinators to the flower?

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Pam/Digging said...

Beautiful detail, Ki. I feel like I'm in a Georgia O'Keefe painting.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Pam,
You know Georgia O'Keefe's painting never occurred to me but the petunia photo certainly would be her kind of subject. I read a short article on her - I believe it was in the New Yorker Magazine - what a randy life she lead with her husband Alfred Stieglitz. I can see why she was so fascinated with flowers and especially the reproductive organs of the plant.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

That's a really interesting technique. Seems like it would require a lot of dexterity?

I read somewhere that Georgia O'Keefe said she hated flowers, but they didn't move and she didn't have to pay them. This seems unlikely, but it turns up on "quotations" sites all over the internet.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

Beautiful photos! The Lobelia is my favorite...gotta love that blue!

3:23 PM  
Anonymous mss @ zanthan gardens said...

An interesting experiment that's piqued my curiousity. I'm tempted to try it myself. I like your results VERY much.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Entangled,
I did get my finger in some of the photos but I could usually see it in the LCD so it was a minor problem. I may not have had the lens squarely on the housing of the camera lens and that may account for some of the blurred photos but it was fairly easy to hold the lens and shoot at the same time.

The impression I got from reading the article about O'Keefe was that she was consumed by sex and finding a consonance with a woman's sexual organ with the plant's was a way to flout this interest without having to deal with public outcry. This may be my own warped interpretation but I think the article strongly hinted that very thing. Clever woman saying they didn't move and she didn't have to pay them. I just painted the flower as I saw it. I just loved the intricate inner parts of the flower and that's what I painted etc. with tongue in cheek.


Thank you Connie.
I will post a photo of a Phacelia campanularia tomorrow. If you like blue, that one will knock your socks off. A much truer blue than the Lobelia. I tried to adjust the color of the Lobelia to approximate what it looks like in the garden but the photos got much too dark the closer I got to the color so I opted to be able to see the orange-eyed bug instead.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

You did well on these, Ki. Nice trick with the lens. I never saw half the details of flowers until I started shooting macros of them. I will look forward to more of these type of pictures from you.

I posted the pictures of the hot sauces on Saturday. I have been to the New Mexico State Fair and it was very interesting and fun.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

Ki: That's what I get for being so literal-minded - I never catch the innuendo ;-)

5:35 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Chris,
I wish I had thought up the handheld lens trick but there are very creative people trying all sorts of crazy things with their cameras and this one just happened to work quite well. Before I found out about this though, I did wonder if I could use a large magnifying glass focused on the subject and take a photo through the glass but never tried it.

I just posted a new set of photos as well as photos of how I use the binocular lens.

I will definitely take a look at your photos of the hot sauces at the NM State Fair. Some friend just got back from a vacation in the Caribbeans and brought us some homemade hot sauce. We just took a quick taste, dipping our pinkie in the sauce bottle - it had an interesting taste which could be enhanced with the addition of a little salt I think which would attenuate the vinegar taste but we'll give it a better taste test before we add anything to it.

Sometimes I curse myself for having a suspicious mind.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Those pictures are amazing! I never noticed the insides of the petunia before--and would have never known it was so jewel-like. And isn't it funny how the small flowers of a wax begonia look so exotic and flashy when viewed up close?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kim,
I realized we really see so little. The camera is a wonderful tool to make the unseen visible, something I am thankful for. I wonder what the green jewel-like petunia stigma looks like to an ant? I would never have given a single begonia flower a second glance. I have seen large displays of them from a distance usually at entrances to housing developments. The drifts of color look quite stunning but we've seen them so often they soon retreat to insignificance. And yet, when the individual flower is enlarged to the size of a large rose its beauty can rival that of the most beautiful flowers IMO. Thanks for stopping by.

6:59 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

That petunia closeup is way cool...I've been enjoying my macro this year, too-but I haven't seen that.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hey Lisa,
I think almost every petunia has the jewel-like structure, though some may not be translucent and colored. You get to see a lot of neat stuff down at the macro level.

10:45 AM  

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