Margaret West  

Crstalline macro by Margaret West

July 2024 - Crstalline macro

About the Image(s)

This is a little different this month. These are crystals from citric acid. I have been tearing my hair out trying to get good crystals! And then if there are a few areas on the slide that are interesting, I am tearing my hair out trying to get a good photo. I tried photostacking 3 images for this one. I also tried to orient it so that it had a flow through the photograph. I love the colors but think I have along way to go yet. I am very very open to suggestions down to how you mix your crystal solution! I shot this with my R5 directly attached to a microscope, 1/40 (with electronic shutter and a remote trigger to hopefully eliminate any shake) at ISO 200.

9 comments posted

Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
I've done a bit of similar work, Margaret. See my pictures in February and March 24.

I think this is a super result. It's all sharp, with lovely colours and patterns. Well done for persisting!

You're right, getting good crystals is the first challenge. Most salts will crystalise nicely, and you can do it by spreading a thin flim of saturated solution over a glass slide, and build it up in layers as they dry. Or you can hang a crystal in a jar of saturated solution and leave the jar open so that some water (or solvent) evaporates, forcing super-saturation of the solution and growth of the crystal. You can get them an inch long or more that way, it depends on the salt and the presence of impurities. For thin layers, I mix my solutions in small glass bottles (say 5cc), and drop them onto microscope slides using a small pipette with a rubber bulb on (less than 1cc tubes). All cheap on ebay.

Thin films and bigger crystals present different challenges to get a good photo of them. Crystals I find usually need focus stacking, but thin films don't. Both need good and suitable light. Many colourful pictures like this one come from birefingence. If you google "birefingence photography" you'll get lots of information. You need 2 polarising filters to do this. I would guess your icroscope has the facility to hold them in place - 1 above the specimen, and one below it, above the illuminator.

In this case, we are seeing interference patterns - light is reflecting inside the crystals, and various light paths are hitting each other in such a way as they interfere with each other, causing the rainbow colours. A bit like a thin layer of oil on water. The result is very beautiful, I think, and the presence of some crystals having no colour improves the picture by giving colour contrast.

Having a proper microscope to use, I hope you do more for all our enjoyment. One day I'll get round to buying a small stereo one, which seem to be best suited to our scale of operation.

Have you seen the Nikon annual photomicrography competition? Lots of inspiration is there, albeit little help on techniques - eg and
  Posted: 07/08/2024 03:02:08
Margaret West
I looked at Justin Zoll's photos and they are incredible!   Posted: 07/08/2024 12:01:38

Margaret West
Thanks for your suggestions. When I enlarge this ( which I think is useful if one wants to print the photo) it doesn't seem that sharp. Also I have seen beautiful crystal photos and can't seem to get those despite allegedly using the same mixtures. I think there is a big learning curve. I will check out that site.   Posted: 07/08/2024 05:57:47
Stuart Ord   Stuart Ord
During COVID I made lots of crystals and photographed them. I can say that getting what look like sharp images is a real struggle. Even when they are bang in focus, the nature of the surface often makes it look slightly off focus.

Operating a microscope is a skill in itself. I bought a couple of microscope objectives (4x and 10x) and used them with a bellows unit. Much harder than I'd expected! I asked questions on a microscope forum, and they took pity on me and explained some basics like Numerical Aperture. It all sounded backwards to me. Are you trained in microscopy? If so, I have lots of questions for you!
  Posted: 07/08/2024 14:45:24

Gloria Grandolini   Gloria Grandolini
Margaret, this is way beyond my technical depth to comment.. but in terms of image I find the colors gorgeous and the patterns fascinating. I kept looking at it, trying to identify patterns embedded in the abstract image. Clearly you are going in the right direction in terms of creating beautiful images.   Posted: 07/08/2024 10:06:43
Margaret West
Thanks much. I keep researching this because the images I see online are so beautiful!   Posted: 07/08/2024 11:45:11

Carol Sheppard   Carol Sheppard
This is a beautiful image to view, Margaret! I would agree with you that it doesn't feel completely sharp, but I believe that is due to artifacts being introduced. Without more information on how you processed it, I cannot say for sure, but sometimes you will get those purple "halos" on the edges in the sharpening phase.

Despite this, it sounds like a difficult photograph to get, so kudos! I think you've nailed the capture! You said you focus-stacked, but would you have to if you shot straight down (on a flat/level plane)?   Posted: 07/09/2024 10:29:48
Margaret West
The camera attachment is such that I am always shooting straight down. There's no lens. The camera attachment screws into a tube attached to the microscope. There's a depth, albeit microscopic, to the slide/crystals. Especially with the scope lens at higher power. Maybe there is some shake. I am going to try a faster shutter speed and try heating my solution next. All tips welcome!   Posted: 07/11/2024 19:26:01

Keith Au   Keith Au
Hey Margaret, it's a very good outcome of your shot of crystal.. I don't have microscope attachment to my camera.. May be something to play with in the future. Thanks for sharing.   Posted: 07/10/2024 09:11:18


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