MICRO PHOTO GEMS

Beyond closeups, beyond macro photography, lies the world of photography through a microscope —a tiny realm in which ordinary objects turn into weirdly beautiful, abstract, and very often intensely colorful images. Alfred Pasieka, a top practitioner of this scientific art, shows us how itdone. RADIOLARIA These marine protozoa form hard silica skeletons around themselves. Their fossilized skeletons on the sea bed formed minerals such as flint. Shot with a Leica microscope on Zeiss macro stand with Hasselblad 6x6cm rollfilm back; 400X magnification on Fujichrome 50 Tungsten. ALFRED PASIEKA attributes his career in microscopy to a portly gentleman in a red suit. I was 12, Santa Claus surprised me with a basic kidmicroscope set with some prepared specimens, and I was immediately captured by what I saw,”he recalls. I found out about the wonderful world of crystals, derived from chemicals like vitamins, sulfur, and so on, and that became my main interest —turning these microcosms into pieces of art.” And since Pasieka was already a shutterbug, he seemed almost destined to become one of the worldpremier makers of photomicrographs —photos made through a microscope. He pursued micrography and scientific study as a hobby, graduating to more and more sophisticated equipment along the way. I had done some nice shots of crystals in polarized light, I contacted the supplier of the original chemicals with sample images,”he says. liked them and bought them for use in advertising, and so the whole thing started.” Today his clients include industrial firms, ad agencies, publishers, research institutes, and photo agencies such as Getty Images and Photo Researchers. His subjects range over biology, crystallography technology, and zoology. Based in his native Germany, Pasiekaequipment has come a long way from his Agfa Clack camera and kidmicroscope: Leica, Nikon, and Zeiss micro-optics and dedicated digital microscope cameras. He uses a variety of software applications to make image stacks with extended depth of field and three-dimensional effects. whata microscope without a specimen?”Pasieka asks. And so heassembled an growing”stock of chemical substances and prepared microscope slides as subjects. Scope Breakthroughs Pasieka cites several dramatic advances in compound optical microscopes, notably infinity optics. These are objective lenses that are focused to infinity —that is, with light rays traveling in parallel —rather than to the fixed finite distance of the scopetube length. This allows the introduction of components such as polarizers, fluorescence illuminators, and differential interference contrast (DIC) prisms into the optical path with minimal loss of image quality. Other great advances have come by way of digital technology —both hardware and software. While until very recently he used color reversal film for its fine detail and color, Pasieka has now gone fully digital. very difficult to get the film developed now —I mean, speedily —and the advantages of shooting digital are all too convincing,”he says. Among his latest equipment is the Nikon DS-Ri1 camera, whose cooled image sensor uses pixel-shift technology to deliver 16-bit images up to 12.7MP. (Pixel shift moves the sensor in tiny increments to record data from multiple captures.) photography through a microscopeLighting for Tiny Studios As in all other forms of photography lighting is the key element. As you might imagine, Pasieka uses lighting techniques far beyond those substage mirrors or battery-powered lamps some of us used on high-school microscopes. The type of lighting employed, he explains, on the specimen and what effect you are looking for.” For insect parts, such as the tick image shown below, dark-field illumination works well, he says. Dark-field is sort of like rim lighting at the microscopic level: Substage lighting is partly blocked by a disk in the light path, so that the microscopeobjective sees only scattered light from the specimen. (You can use this technique easily enough with a hobbyist microscope, however.) Illumination by polarized light is very effective for crystals and plant parts, Pasieka notes. This was the technique used for the adenine, caffeine, and clover images on the preceding pages, and for the bone cross-section seen above. The jaw-busting differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy an advanced form of polarized lighting, exploits the interference of polarized light along two different paths to enhance contrast in detail that might ordinarily be invisible. This lighting was used for the radiolaria photo in the opening spread. (Remember staining specimens on microscope slides in high-school biology? DIC can bring out detail in specimens without the need for staining.) Pasieka adds that microchips and other opaque materials show their surfaces nicely with DIC, and this was indeed the technique used in the microchip photo on page 57. Always Experimenting Pasiekasuccess comes not just from mastery of microscopic and photographic technique, but from approaching his work as a scientist, someone constantly looking for discovery and understanding. always search for new forms of visual expression, and therefore I do a lot of experimental work to find new creative approaches to the micro world,”he tells us. To explore this world, Pasieka advises, good point to start would be to locate an amateur microscope club near you. They always like guests, and you can get a first look of what microscopy is all about.”He also suggests the online community photomacrography.net/ amateurmicroscopy, as well as www.microbehunter.com. An extensive body of information can be found at Nikonmicroscopyu.com website. It also sponsors the worldwide Small World photo contest, whose site, nikonsmallworld.com, hosts galleries of micrographic art. Olympus has a photomicrography resource center at olympusmicro.com, and holds a similar imaging competition called BioScapes. most beautiful pictures are not from human painters,”Pasieka concludes, from Mother Nature!”

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