The adaxial basil


In learning to garden, I have tried to be more observant of my plants – to notice their wounds, their color, the way the leaves emerge.

This new sprig of basil is only a few mm across. I’m glad that I can see its surface – the adaxial – better with my camera than my eyes.

Here, you notice the pore-like structures. As I recall, this is why you water plants the way rain does, rather than only at the soil level – to keep those pores clean.

[Shot with the “new” macro lens]

A macro lens – from spare parts


The surface of the nut shown here is about 3/4″ – that crack is less than a millimeter.

While reading about macro lenses and trying to decide what to buy, I saw a forum comment that you could put two 50mm lenses together (one of them reversed, attached front to front, by gluing old filters together) and get “amazing” resolution.


It happens that I have two old 50mm’s (one f2, the other f1.7) and I scrounged up two old UV filters that fit them. Then I taped the filters together just to see how this contraption would work.

The results were astonishing.

I do love that old Pentax glass. My favorite lenses are 25+ years old.

To focus, I put the lens just an inch or so from the subject. I don’t use a macro rail or tripod – those are far too klunky, when working with such a tiny focal area. I have learned to hold my breath while shooting a series, moving a hair’s distance back for each shot. This means I delete 3/4 of the shots on the first edit, because the hair’s breadth I want is out of focus.

I’ve developed my technique from using a single 50mm lens with a reversing ring for the past several years (a number of examples are on this site, such as this one of a beech tree bud tip). The clarity of the shots with the “new” macro, though, is significantly better.

The depth of field constraint means most photographers wouldn’t give this macro combo a second look. Who wants to work with an area the width of a few hairs? But, to me, that is an ideal format for what I am trying to express – the finest point of attention, the smallest detail, the place where your heart breaks.

So I like that constraint, the way you appreciate the size of the canvas as a limit that releases your creativity.

More posts forthcoming to show the results of this lens.

Polaroid emulsion

Light and my skin reflecting off the surface of an all-black Polaroid.

I call these photos Polaroid self-portraits.

Before my father died, he gave me the family camera – the first camera I ever used. It’s a Polaroid 360 Land Camera, bought in 1969, when I was 10 years old.

The flash unit had quit years before, but Dad was pretty sure the camera still worked. I bought a couple packs of Fuji film for the Polaroid – and then the whole project sat in my closet for almost four years.


Last week, inspired by some experimental photos that I saw online, I decided to dig out the camera. Loading it and getting the film to pull out without jamming took me awhile. Then the first six photos I took with the color film were solid black. I finally figured out how to change the battery controlling the electric eye, and got a few shots. Nothing worth posting here, yet.

But, in trying to remember what it is that makes Polaroids special, I studied the film emulsion on those all-black shots.

Light and my skin reflecting off the surface of an all-black Polaroid.

Light and my skin reflecting off the surface of an all-black Polaroid.

As I began to turn and fold the print, bent light caught my skin tones, the camera body, the overhead lamp … and creased them into abstract shapes.

I got out my Pentax K10D and started shooting.