Feb 272012

Here I go again with another set of macro experiments.  Have you ever noticed that soap bubbles show a rainbow of colours if  light hits them a certain angle?  What if you replicate this effect and shoot it close up, what would you see?  The gallery below is a collection of such images.  It’s amazing just what a camera sees that escapes the naked eye.  Is it art?  Who cares!  I like the effect and it was a fun project.

This was a low budget project as the only materials I needed to purchase were bubble blowing solution from a dollar store and some glycerin from a drug store.  I added 20% glycerin to the bubble solution to thicken it so that the soap film would last longer. With taxes, it cost me less than $10 and I can still blow bubbles if I get really bored.

To create a suitable surface to hold the soap film, I rigged a frame using two coat hangers and a clip.  Thanks to the added glycerin, it would hold the soap film surface for a few minutes before it burst.  This gave me time to setup the shots.  The lighting was tricky as it had to hit the bubble at an angle and the camera had to be carefully positioned to catch the effect, but not ruin the shot.  Soap film acts like a mirror, so it was necessary to shoot it against a velvet background and diffuse the light evenly with a white light tent.  The camera had to be aimed so that it would not reflect its own image, but also capture the rainbow effect.  Since each shot had to be made at an angle, I used f/16 and f/20 to maximize the depth of field and create the illusion of a flat surface.

The last image in the gallery shows my setup.  Each shot was made in near darkness using an off camera flash as the sole source of illumination.

Picture 10 is especially weird.  Can you find the alien embryo?

Taken with an Olympus E-3 using Zuiko 50mm f2.0, Zuiko 35mm f3.5 and Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm f/2.8 SWD lenses.

Feb 212012

One of the advantages of mirrorless Micro Four-Thirds cameras is that you can find adapters to attach just about any brand of old manual focus lens.  I have some very old Russian M39 mount lenses literally gathering dust in the basement and wondered how well they might work on my Olympus Pen E-P3.  Russian lenses are known for decent optics, but also for dodgy mechanical construction and shoddy workmanship.  The two Soviet-era Industar brand M39 mount lenses I own manifest these mixed qualities.  Similar lenses can be purchased between $25 and $50 in working condition on Ebay.

I ordered an M39 to Micro Four-Thirds adapter from Amazon and it arrived last week.   The M39 thread mount was used on older Leica rangefinder cameras and it is easy to find used M39 lenses on the internet. So, this adapter can be used for a lot more than just cheap Russian glass.  Leica glass is out of my price range, however, the Japanese made M39 lenses to compete with Leica on price.  Those used Japanese copies of Leica lenses are affordable and reputed to be of excellent quality.

What I really wanted to know is just what kinds of effects these aging Russian lenses would produce on a good camera.  One of the lenses comes from a Russian Fed 3 camera I bought on Ebay a several years ago for around $30.  I suspect this camera was made during the 1960’s and my copy never quite worked, but it I bought it mainly for decoration and as a conversation piece.

I took some photos this weekend to show the similarities between the two camera systems.  When put side by side, you can see just how much the Olympus E-P3’s design harkens back to the days of classic range finders.

These old Industar lenses seem right at home on the E-P3, but I needed to do some work before taking any pictures.  The Russian lenses were dirty from years of dust gathering and needed a good cleaning.   The silver coloured Industar 50mm lens required some minor repairs.  The focus ring was so stiff that it was unusable.  With a little bit of work and some WD-40, I was able to loosen the focus mechanism and now it is very smooth.  I would never think of using WD-40 on a really good lens, but this Russian lens is worth less than a premium T-bone steak.  The black colored Industar 61 has some rough spots in the focusing mechanism, but it can still be used as is.  The Industar lenses are relatively heavy compared to modern micro four thirds optics, but they balance well on the E-P3.

I took a few quick shots around the house this weekend using the Industar lenses.  I was somewhat disappointed, because they actually performed quite well!  Actually, I was hoping for some  weird optics, vignetting and selective focus effects.   Much to my chagrin, both lenses proved to be quite sharp with good colour.  I will take a few more photos with these lenses and post them here.

Feb 182012

Every now and then we get some visitors during our weekend breakfasts.  Normally I find squirrels quite mundane, but this guy had some character and I decided to grab my camera.  He told me in no uncertain terms what he thinks of me by showing his ass.

I have not seen a blue jay in awhile, so it was nice to see this fellow visiting our feeder.   The doves were not so lucky since the jays, being notoriously territorial, quickly sent them on their way.

Taken with an Olympus E-3 and a Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm f/2.8 SWD zoom lens.

Feb 152012

Another one in my series of silly macro photography.  Last weekend I saved a thin slice of grapefruit  to see what effects I could generate by strong back illumination.  I placed the grapefruit in a glass baking dish and suspended it between two styrofoam blocks.  The lighting game from a single wireless flash unit placed on the table and aimed up towards the slice of fruit.  I made these shots slightly overexposed to create a more abstract look.  I think the last four photos in this gallery achieved what I envisioned.

Taken with an Olympus E-3 using Zuiko 50mm f2.0 and Zuiko 35mm f3.5 macro lenses.

Feb 132012

This weekend Elaine and I visited the Pickering Flea market, which is a  massive complex just a few kilometers away from our home in Ajax, Ontario.  The place has a “different world” feel to it because of all the cultures and ethnic groups that constitute the neighbourhood.  It was also an excuse to try out the Olympus E-P3 for street photography.  It’s small enough not to draw attention to itself and it has a touch screen that can be used to take photos instead of a shutter button.  Seems like a decent choice for stealthy shooting, right?

However, things are not so easy.  Many shots were rejected because of slow focus with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens. Normally that lens will focus fast enough in daylight or a well lit room.   The flea market is a relatively dark place and it would struggle at times.  It also forced me to get closer to people to take the photo, so I was no longer that stealthy.  I chose that lens because it’s very compact and allowed me to pocket the camera.  In hindsight, it was a poor choice.

A better choice would be the new Olympus 45mm f1.8, which I acquired two weeks ago.  On the downside, it is a larger lens and when it is attached to the E-P3,  the camera will not slide into a coat pocket with ease.  However, in its favour, it has fast and accurate focus in low light and allows me to be twice as far away as a 20mm lens to take the same shot.  Basically, I can be more stealthy, fast and nail the focus.

Because of low light, many shots were done at ISO 1600 and 3200, which produces a grainy photo.  Mixed lighting also meant there was something of a colour cast on most photos.  Rather than trying to fix the colour balance or reduce the grain, I went with the flow and decided these shots worked better in black and white.   I adjusted contrast, lighting and vignetting to my liking.

Street photography is an art form that requires years of practice to do well.  I’m just scratching the surface here, but hope to  improve with experience.  I’m looking forward to more outings and produce something better.


Feb 112012

My Brother, Jean-Pierre Faucher, is also a shutterbug.  Yesterday he sent me some very good images he did at home with the simplest of materials and lots of imagination.  He made these photos by cutting out pictures from magazines and then he created a mini-diorama inside a shoe box.  A peep hole was cut out of the camera and the lighting came from an opening on top of the box.

From my brother:

“…photos (taken with my 5mp Pana Lumix) aimed through the peep hole that I made in the shoe box. You can see in each photo the depth of view and that I angled the camera slightly to capture more of the leopard. When you move the box side to side you got to see what was hiding in the bushes. To give the illustion of floating things like birds or butterflies, I cut them out and got clear tape and stuck them and hung them from the lid.

Files P1120607 and 608 (the last two in the series) you see the focus is way on the background and you can see the two white birds on the water buffalo and the leemurs are out of focus in the foreground.

These projects are very fun to create, and kinda fidly to setup, cut and tape or glue in a box. Choosing the right size to get perspective can be a challenge too.

The joy is that a viewer has no idea what is inside. The are handed a shoe box with translucent lid (or side windows sometimes) and are told to look through a hole  the size of a loonie in the end of the shoe box. It is only when they look inside do they see what you have made.”

Feb 062012

It was a busy weekend as I built a new machine for my web server and changed my network architecture.  Through it all, I was able to add the first galleries to the Astrophotography page.   I also added more galleries to the Road Trips, Street, Macro, Assorted and Animals pages.   More to come as I scour through all my photos in Adobe Lightroom.

Feb 032012

I thought it would be interesting to capture some of intricate patterns produced by cigar smoke. The cigar and ashtray were positioned in front of black cardboard. A single off camera flash was used to illuminate the smoke from the side. In hindsight, these shots would have turned out better if black velvet was used instead as it would reflect far less light. To maximize the smoke effect, I would take a few puffs and set the cigar back down in the ashtray.

Taken with an Olympus E-3 and a Zuiko 50mm f2.0 macro lens.