Longer articles are migrating here. Much more to come, stay tuned!
Some of the finest quality print jobs in the world are currency bills. Canada recently created a new line of some of their bills, and I must say that I’m impressed with what their designers have created. Like many things, the beauty is all in the details.
I shot several photos of very small portions of $50 and $100 bills, looking for abstract compositions. The photos were all done with one fixed magnification, a window into the close-up world that is about 6mm x 9mm in size.
These photographs represent only a very small percentage of the area of the bills. The small black rectangles on the black-and-white $50 bill above show you the area of each photo.
If you mouse over the photo of the hologram below, or swipe on an iPad or smartphone, you’ll see a burst of changing colours. (It may take a moment to load the first time– and please let me know if this does not work correctly on your device. Does not work in Internet Explorer, but can be viewed in a modern browser: Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera.)
Mouseover or swipe this photo, left to right, and closely watch the details in the colour shifts:
This project was done in the spirit of exploration, of finding abstract fragments within a greater whole, and of looking very closely at details. This is why I became hooked on macro photography in the first place.
The photos were all taken with a 65mm Macro-Nikkor lens on a Nikon Multiphot with a Nikon D700. Aperture was wide open, set at “1″ or F4.5; therefore effective aperture was approx F22 at 4x. When viewed at 1:1 pixels, the photos are very sharp and free of aberrations, which is something you can expect from any of the Macro-Nikkor lenses. To show you the quality of these lenses, the last photo in the series right below is an actual pixels crop, near the top edge.
There is only one interactive display of the hologram, but more of the close-up photos can be seen below, and in this new gallery:
In our grey west coast winter, while plants and insects are mostly in their dormancy, I was looking for subject matter with interesting detail in it, even if examined very closely. Normally I look to the natural world when I want details… flowers or other plants, or small creatures. There is nothing that matches the complexity and beauty of biology and life.
Complex subjects show the potential of high quality macro objectives, and of high resolution photographic techniques. The closer you look, the more surprises you see. To me, this is the great joy of macro photography. There is a universe all around you… at arm’s length.
The photos in this blog and in the gallery came from just another experiment into looking closely. This post is partly to show what a high-quality macro lens reveals, and in the discovery… it became a brief exploration into the art of money.
On December 24, 2009 a package arrived in the mail that contained a long-awaited macro lens. After about 6 years of searching for the 85mm F1.0 Repro-Nikkor, I now finally owned a sample of this special industrial lens.
I had seen only a handful of photos taken by others with this rare lens, and I was curious to see what it would do. The image qualities of this lens exceeded my expectations in a big way! Over the next few days I photographed a few subjects indoors, as well as flowers that were blooming down the road from me. You can view some of the first photos I took in 2009 with this lens in the Repro-Nikkor galleries “Discovery”, and “Flora”.
As a tribute to the 3rd anniversary of owning this lens, yesterday (December 24, 2012) I spent a few hours photographing ornaments on Christmas trees on public display around town. This lens has easily earned its position as my favourite specialized macro lens. I hope you might enjoy the photos, and in the “Galleries”, you will see a new gallery, “85mm F1.0 Repro-Nikkor Tree Ornaments” (link at the end of this post). Images in the gallery are larger and better for viewing.
Performance is spectacular with the aperture set anywhere in the range from F1 to F8. Of course, at F1.0 there are some minor aberrations, but better than anything else I’ve seen at F1.0 (marked), and by F2.8 it is about perfect.
Aside from its maximum marked aperture of F1.0, the most remarkable thing about this lens is the way it renders out-of-focus objects (often referred to as “bokeh”). At F1.0 to F2.8, the depth of field is extremely shallow, eliminating distractions in the foreground and background. At these large apertures, the bokeh rendering is soft with no harsh qualities at all, and it is sometimes more like a painting than a photograph. Because it has these qualities while also being an incredibly sharp and well-corrected lens, it is a unique creative tool.
However, this lens comes with a strict limitation: it can only be used at 1.0x magnification, no more and no less. (There are some exceptions to this, and I’ll save that for a future blog post.) But within the constraint of 1.0x, and with the unique characteristics of this lens, there are more possibilities than I had ever imagined.
Whether it is Christmas or any other holiday you might celebrate, I hope you have a happy one! And always remember to take time to look at the finer details…
The photo gallery of tree ornaments taken with this macro lens can be viewed here:
Some years ago while I was working with forestry biologist Bob Duncan on an insect photography project, I was bitten by a bug. It wasn’t the kind of bite that made me jump, or swat at an insect, or go rushing for the calamine lotion. Instead it was the kind of bite that led me off into new directions with my photography.
I was bitten by the dreaded lens bug, and it has left its mark on me ever since. I began to search for lenses with special qualities, different from what could be achieved with the already excellent Micro-Nikkors I was using at the time.
Initially I began to look for lenses to use with the Nikon PB-4 tilt-shift bellows. I needed a bellows lens, or short-mount lens, which would allow me to use tilt-shift perspective control from infinity to close-up. After a bit of patience I found a 105mm f4 Nikkor-P short mount bellows Nikkor for sale. This soon evolved into a quest for several rare lenses especially useful for close-up photography (ie., micro and macro photography, near and beyond 1:1 reproduction). Large format and other special gear followed.
At the time I had been aware of a website that was highly regarded (and still is) by Bjørn Rørslett. I took notice of some of the unusual lenses that Bjørn mentioned on his site, most notably the industrial Nikkors such as the CRT Nikkor, the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors, the Macro-Nikkors, and the Repro-Nikkor.
Soon after, I discovered another remarkable website by Michio Akiyama called “Red Book Nikkor”, which also had information about these rare lenses. These lenses had special qualities including high resolution, excellent corrections for aberrations, and in some cases very fast maximum apertures while maintaining excellent image quality.
Over the years since then I’ve acquired some of these lenses, and photographed with them extensively. Through this site, I’ll share my work with these lenses and other gear. Often this will be with the goal of showing some of their qualities, sometimes doing comparisons and writing reviews. But most of all, it will be for the real reason why I do any of this in the first place– to create and share images that might be enjoyed by some.
This blog and website will be updated frequently. In the galleries you will see photos of this gear, and photos taken with these special lenses. I’ll be adding much more, and I intend to post info about all the lenses and gear I use. You can follow me on Twitter for updates, and share my info and links if you like. I look forward to new discoveries in photography, and to sharing the knowledge with others. Thanks for visiting. Stay tuned…