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Friday Slide Show: Impossible Macros Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

19 October 2018

Everything breaks. It's one of the fundamental laws of nature, acknowledged by scientists and crackpots alike. An unbreakable law at that.

When it comes to rules, though, you have to force the issue. You must intentionally do the breaking. Usually.

But the bunker is a strange place. A lot of things around here have broken, historically. The roof blew off, the plumbing pipes disintegrated behind the wall, the water heater rusted out. And then we moved in.

And more stuff broke. The refrigerator. The washer. The heater.

Then we had some house guests and more things broke. The oven wouldn't heat. A window broke. The shower backed up.

Everything breaks around here.

So we weren't that surprised when a few of the old photographic rules broke this week.


We had the bright idea of building a macro machine that started with an image-stabilized body (sort of a rule breaker right there, not being housed in the lens), an adapter (two for two), a 2x extender (insanity if not breaking any rules), a Lensbaby Composer with the f8 aperture disc (brave if not insane) and a 10x macro converter lens (bewildering).

Macro Machine. A Lensbaby Tilt Transformer adapter, a Kenko 2x extender, a Lensbaby Composer and the 10x converter attached with the 4x converter nearby.

To make it all worse, we decided to handhold this contraption and wander around taking close-ups in the filtered light of the bunker.

The scenes we captured are about a half inch across in real life.

Not only was it hard to hold the camera steady enough to align anything that small in the viewfinder but we couldn't focus. The focus ring on the Composer had no range because the 2x extender butted up to the Composer optic.

So to focus at all, we had to sway backwards and forwards as if we'd recently had a few too many. And fire a very laconic shutter when the EVF suggested the scene was sharp.

It got a little more unreasonable when we pressed our luck by adding a 4x macro converter on top of that for 14x magnification (not to mention the focal length doubler). The last images in this show are those extreme macros, labeled "(14x)." That was fun but it was impossible to steady the image in viewfinder.

Not too many hits doing that.


But there were a few. And they suffered from exactly what you would expect: softness from the 2x extender and the 10x macro converter (and the 4x converter). And once in a while some blur from camera movement.

That was all part of the plan, though. Because long before people were buzzing about computational smartphone photography, there was post processing (which is the same thing, only manual). And we'd planned our post processing to deal with the softness.

The one image suffering from camera movement (Popcorn Rose Petal, our key image above) was sent through Photoshop's Shake Reduction filter. It detects the motion blur and shuffles it back into place.

Then we did our usual edits for these slide shows in Lightroom. But with two surprises. Hardly any cropping (the compositions were pretty tight) and more Color Temperature shifting than we expected (the walls are yellow in the bunker).

We could have played with the color for hours, in fact. The compositions were more abstract at this magnification and color could consequently be more imaginary.

The results? Well, see for yourself.

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