Macro paint layers

No new paint on the bridge today.  That magic combination of non-semesterness and cold, wet weather (it actually snowed today) creates a powerful force that drives away painters.  However, I have two other things today: 1) a chunk of bridge paint I found on the sidewalk a month or two ago and 2) a Xmas gift to use.

First let me say to any other photographers reading this — have you wanted to dabble in macro, but didn’t have nearly $900 to spend on a lens?  Me too.  Luckily there exist two pieces of hardware that inexpensively turn your normal lens into a macro lens.

One is a reversing ring, which lets you mount your lens backwards. (No, I am not being paid by Amazon to put links to their site on here… although maybe I should be… I just like buying things there.) Conveniently, most lenses have the property that when turned around they act to focus at very close range and thus magnify your subject.  For me, I have had luck with my cheap 50mm prime (at $100 that lens is a crazy good deal).  I can hand-hold macro shots with that one reversed, whereas my 18-55mm gives too much magnification to use hand-held.  My telephoto would just be out of the question.

The other magic piece of hardware is an extension tube, which is essentially a hollow tube that mounts the lens farther away from the sensor.  This also has the effect of magnifying the subject and, yep you guessed it, these two tricks work in concert with each other.

Here is a shot of the paint chunk sitting on my desk at closest focusing distance with my 55mm lens:

Closest focusing with 55mm lens.

I probably should have put a coin next to it for scale, but you can see the letters there.  The chunk is about half an inch long.

Here is the same face of it with the lens reversed, using a reversing ring (and a tripod for all subsequent shots):

55mm lens reversed.

Now, here is that same piece with the extension tube (lens mounted facing normally):

55mm lens on extension tube

Finally, here it is with the lens reversed and mounted on the extension tube:

55mm lens mounted in reverse on the extension tube.

That’s a pretty close-up macro with decent quality for less than $20!!  It gives an interesting view of the paint layers that is even hard to see with the naked eye.  Just think of all the buried birthday messages in there.  Given that the short side of my camera’s sensor is about half and inch, and that open face of paint layers is about 1/4″ long, this fits in the classic description of macro (which is that the object appears larger on the sensor than it is in real life).

For saving you $880 dollars, you are welcome (if you want to donate any of that money to me, I will be glad to take checks).  From this little test I recommend that:

  • The reversing ring alone be used when you want to take kind of macro-ey hand-held shots.
  • The extension tube alone be used when you want pretty strong macro, and to maintain the ability to focus with the lens (tripod required).
  • Both combined should used when über macro is required, and you can focus by moving either the whole camera or the subject (tripod required).

To cap it off, here is a shot I liked from another side of the chunk:

Things look different down in macro-land!


Have something to say about this post? Say it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s