Occasionally, it is required to illustrate a living aquatic specimen in its environment as naturally as possible. To do so requires high magnification and image resolution, clear surroundings and quality lighting in order to produce true-to-life colors.
To produce these images, I turn to photography in tanks sized for the subject. I build tanks from glass glued together with silicone aquarium cement. I use a wide variety of sizes from 25 mm square up to a few gallons. Frequently, I make a tank just for the subject at hand.
In the case of the dragonfly nymph below (Images 1 and 2), I made the tank out of standard microscope slides that measure 25 x 75 mm. The tank interior compartment measures about 40 x 20 x 25 mm. This tank (Image 3) can house the dragonfly nymph very nicely.
Image 4 illustrates the overall setup with a SLR camera, bellows unit and close focusing lens. The entire camera assembly is securely mounted on a heavy tripod and the tank is on a solid stand. Elimination of vibrations is critical.
At these bellows extensions, light loss is significant. I find that a single, diffused Nikon SB-800 speedlight provides sufficient motion-stopping illumination, adequate depth of field and daylight white balance. With a dedicated cord, the flash exposure is synchronized and measured TTL in aperture priority. This arrangement satisfies the objectives previously stated very well.
Nikon D2Xs, PB-4 bellows, with 35mm F3.5 Macro Nikkor bellows lens and single SB-800 flash. Image 1 and 2 magnification at 4.0X and 6.0 X respectively on the sensor.
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