Science and photography are inseparably linked, but it’s always interesting to see photography used to further explore the realms of science.
Dutch photographer Maurice Mikkers was curious to explore the composition of tears. Tears are like snowflakes, with each bearing chemical similarities to another yet being uniquely different, often based on the type of tear produced. So, what does an insatiably-inquisitive pro in his twenties do when he wants to examine the photographic quality of tears? He throws a house party and spends the evening making his friends and loved ones weep.
“I asked them to come over and pick a way they would like to cry,” he explains. “The options they could voluntarily choose from where: cutting onions, eat hot peppers, look into a fan, or cry because of sadness or happiness.” (Remember, this is in the name of science…and art.) In a stroke of hilarity, one of his friends was apparently a glutton for punishment, “cutting white onions, putting pepper in the eyes, snorting water, and eating a red pepper.”
He then captured the tears with a micropipette and transferred them to glass slides for viewing – and photographing – under a microscope.
Maurice gave me a little insight into the process from there.
“I use a Canon 5D Mark III and a Euromex Novex B Trino Microscope. The camera is directly mounted to the microscope on the “3rd tube/oculair/lens” that is on top of the microscope. In the 3rd tube, there is a special photo oculair to project the image that the microscope is projecting directly on to the 35mm sensor. In addition, I have several microscopic PL objectives that can make enlargements of 40X, 100X, 200X, 400X, 600X, and 1000X. …and different options to set up the lightning in the microscope – Bright-field, Dark-field, Oblique Illumination, Contrast Phase, and Cross Polarized. With some of these techniques I can use the extra flash I have build into the microscope by extending the wires from an old Canon 540EZ that I trigger remotely. This to make sure I can use faster shutter speeds when needed.”
- EOS Utility
“I use EOS Utility to scan trough my slides with live view on. Once I have found the right spot I start to make images in a comprehensive grid to cover the sample. Each step in the grid is shot with bracketing -1.5 0 and +1.5 EV. Later I will merge every exposure into one big image. And where needed, I will use a lower EV or Higher EV to adjust local brightness or shadows.”
Shooting on a Budget
Of course, being the persistent cheap-ass that I am, I had to know whether one could feasibly recreate a similar shoot on a budget.
“I think there are options, but its mostly about the knowledge of the equipment. If you already own a dSLR camera and you want to attach it to your microscope, there are options below $100. Then, the next step would be to buy a microscope. And, this is a story that is really depending on what you want to photograph under a microscope. Going back again to what I did with the tears, you would maybe get lucky and buy a dark field microscope that is maybe able to see what I’m seeing, but prices are so diverse depending on where you live.” At least not all hope is lost for us penny-pinchers.
Maurice’s Advice to Photographers
One question I try to ask as many photographers as possible is, “If you had one thing to say to aspiring photographers, what would it be?” It’s a simple enough question, but I have come to learn that the answers are often as diverse as photographers’ styles.
“Never let someone tell you things are not made to be used like ‘that’, or that things are impossible,” Maurice admonished. “And if someone says, ‘Thats already done a million times,’ it doesn’t mean you should not do it. Because YOU have not done it yourself yet! Keep exploring, follow your guts and passions. Be reasonable, do listen to feedback, don’t be afraid to defend your work.”
[All images © Maurice Mikkers, used by permission]