Biological Imaging–Part I

Newborn squid

Retirement has its perks. In my case, I can audit courses at Providence College tuition-free. I decided to take advantage of this benefit during the Fall 2017 semester, and enrolled in Biological Imaging. “What’s that?” I’m frequently asked; “Photography through microscopes” is my answer.

Grass seed head

So far we have used stereo, or disecting microscopes and compound microscopes. How it works is that you remove one of the eyepieces on the scope and replace it with your camera. I have been using a Camranger to control the camera from a computer.

Sand dollar

We have mostly been photographing marine organism, but did get some early practice with prepared slides and flowers.

Scallop eyes

There are several challenges in this type of photography. First, controlling the light and white balance can be difficult. Another challenge, due to the extreme magnification, is that depth of field is extremely shallow. I have found good results with focus stacking, however, which provides one way of overcoming this limitation.

Enjoy this initial collection of images under the microscope!

Fun on a Snowy Day

Thursday in Rhode Island was a very snowy day, with over a foot of snow arriving at my house. I have always wanted to try to photograph snowflakes, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to try. Got out my 105mm macro lens, put it on my Nikon D500 crop sensor camera, stacked on all the extension tubes I could find, and even added two close up filters to the front of the lens. After all, snowflakes are really tiny little things. Well, I discovered that I will need lots and lots of practice with that rig, since the depth of field is practically nonexistent. Will try again another time.

As I was standing in the sunroom, which is not insulated, I noticed that globules of snow had formed on the door. I stripped down the rig to just the macro lens, and illuminated the globules from an angle with a strong LED flashlight. That yielded a couple of interesting photos, which I share with you here. Enjoy.


Rainy City Night

Hello, again!  It’s been a long time since my last post.  My computer died, I ordered a new one, it had a bad hard drive, and I just this week got the replacement installed.  So, I’m back in the blogging business!

People walking on Meeting Street in the rain.

People walking on Meeting Street in the rain.

The idea for these images came on a cold, rainy night in Providence as I was waiting to meet some friends for dinner.  Having walked around for a while, I got back in my car, which was parked on a side street.  Behind me (to the left of the camera) was a street light.  People were walking by, some running, some seemingly not minding the rain.  I was struck by the effect of the changing colors of the light, as well as the raindrops on the window.  So I took my pocket-sized camera out of the glove compartment and set to work.  The wall of the building was yellow brick, with an orange inset, but the red, yellow, and green of the streetlight gave different overtones.  I hope you enjoy the results as much as I enjoyed making them!

Night Photography–Trial Run

Did you know there are official, international dark sky parks?  I didn’t until I was recently in Michigan visiting family members.  One of my cousin’s sons is an astronomy buff, and he was hoping to go to the Headlands, in the Mackinac Straits.  Unfortunately the park road was under repair, so getting to the beach area for night time viewing meant a one mile hike–carrying telescopes, tripods, cameras, etc.  Being somewhat daunted by that idea, we went out along the shore of Lake Bellaire, near Traverse City.

Lake Bellaire

Lake Bellaire

This was my first attempt at night photography, but hopefully not my last.  We were able to get a good view of the Big Dipper between two trees, a pine and a spruce.  I tried my hand at some light painting, with very mixed results.  The first flashlight I tried was far too bright, overpowering the sky.  I then switched to another one, with one satisfactory result.  With Mark’s help I was able to pick out the Andromeda Galaxy, “a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kiloparsecs from Earth.  Also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, it is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts” (Wikipedia).  One kiloparsec is defined as 3260 light years.  In other words, the light from the Andromeda Galaxy that I captured left the galaxy 3260 x 780 years ago, or 2,542,800 years ago, before the age of mammals.

Here are the results of my first attempt at night photography.  I was using a Nikon D750 camera body, with a Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens.  Click on the image for the best view.

Big Dipper 1 4.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Big Dipper 1
4.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400  

Big Dipper 2, Light Painting 5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Big Dipper 2, Light Painting
5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400











Milky Way 1 5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Milky Way 1
5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400  

Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Andromeda Galaxy
2.5 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Adele Rowland, OP–Photographer

Adele Rowland, who passed away recently, was a Dominican Sister of San Rafel, CA.  She was also an extraordinary photographer, having studied under the likes of Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernhard, and Jerry Uelsmann.  Despite this tutelage, she preferred color photography and was a pioneer in color photomontage.  The art of photomontage in the era of PhotoShop is much easier; simply put two images in separate layers, move them at will, select a blend mode, etc.  But Sister Adele worked with film.  Each image must be precisely composed to fill the frame.  Also, each must be underexposed so the combination does not become too dark.

Here are a couple of Sister Adele’s montages:



Arizona Butte

Arizona Butte

You can read about Sister Adele’s vision here.  She was the first recipient of the Fra Angelico Award in 1998.  Other Dominican artists are featured in the Dominican Institute for the Arts.