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Aug. 03, 2012

Under the Cover Slip

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
Click on icon in upper right corner of slideshow to enlarge images

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For this week's video our multimedia editor Flora Lichtman zooms in on the world of cinemicrography – the art of taking pictures though a microscope. The video features the work of Russian-American photographer Roman Vishniac (1897–1990), perhaps best known for his images of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe circa-World War II, and Dutch photographer Wim van Egmond. 
 
Like Vishniac, van Egmond started with a film camera, but he now uses a digital SLR camera attached to a 60s- or 70s-era Zeiss microscope to capture his micro-images, including those in the slideshow above.
 
Looking to add some micro-models to your portfolio? Approximating van Egmond's set up might set you back a few grand, but you can get closer to the micro-world with a couple hundred bucks and some plywood. Skeptical? Here's a somewhat grainy YouTube video to prove it:
 
 
 
Van Egmond says the key to getting a good image is mounting the specimen correctly. The organism needs to be stuck, so it doesn't swim away, but not squashed – which means a gentle touch with the cover slip. A tip: "The best way to prevent squashing is to support the corners of the cover slip, for example, with little dots of Vaseline, then press gently until the organism is just fixated, but not squeezed," says van Egmond.

Van Egmond also does 3D photography and super-macro photography. Check out more of his work at micropolitan.org and in the slideshow above. You can read more about Roman Vishniac at the International Center of Photgraphy archive.
 
 
 

 

About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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