Taking On Microphotography

I’ve always had a curiosity for the micro-world but no way to explore it. I remember in college telling my ceramics teacher that I wanted to make shrunken-head style sculptures. Turns out that’s a bad idea for beginners and much harder to build and fire in the kiln.

Circa 2012, my next attempt was adding an “Easy-Macro Lens Band” attachment to my phone camera. The magnification is 4x but the results were lackluster. It wasn’t much better than laying flat in the grass with my face a few inches from the bug.

To make use of the indoor time that Minnesota winters bring, I decided to look into Microscope photography. My initial thinking was attaching a camera body that I already owned to a microscope. I became frustrated looking at microscopes when the conflicting ideas of “buy an old used one from the 60’s; they have the best lenses” and “always test and never trust purchases on eBay.”

Luckily, I stumbled upon photomacrography.net – a relic of when the internet felt kind and helpful. The forum is the real deal.

Rik Littlefield, a 40+-year-old expert, has thousands of posts, all with the hint of doing it for the greater good of this hobby. I’m immediately impressed by Rik. He is also the creator of Zerene, software dedicated to stacking photos (explained below).

An interesting aspect to microphotography is the need to take dozens (up to hundreds) of pictures, all with a different plane in the 3D space in focus. To better illustrate, Picture #1 of a fly’s head will have just his nose in focus. Picture #103 (random number) might have a sliver of his ear in focus. The software stacks it all together and merges only the in-focus parts from each image. The end result is an image of the whole fly in focus.

Even more interesting, there are setups that will move your camera automatically, as physically moving your camera is the only way to get all the differently-focused images. Stackshot and WeMacro are two companies providing these setups. Stackshot seems to be the premium setup, and WeMacro is a straight-from-China product owned by William. William has great rapport in the photomacrography.net world for his customer service. I ended up going with WeMacro and picked up:

My setup will look similar to the one below once it’s all said and done:

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