Sunday, January 27, 2008

Micro and macro

click photo to enlarge
Do children ask their parents for microscopes these days? At one time in my life it was all I wanted. Perhaps if I were a child today it would be a games console or a replica soccer kit that I craved. But I like to think not! My desire to see the world that only a microscope can reveal was stirred by school biology lessons. The cellular structure of a plant, the teeming life of pond water, and the delicate framework of an insect's wing were unimaginable discoveries, and I wanted to know more.

When a microscope did come my way it was a small, inexpensive model, made mainly of plastic, with a relatively low magnification, probably a maximum of about 50X. But, despite being less impressive looking than those at school, it served me well. And though I longed for higher magnification, I appreciated my good fortune. I realise now that what I had was much more usable. Whether my parents appreciated the way the potted geranium decreased in size as I used a razor blade to take sections of its stem to view the cell structure, I don't know! But, I turned its gaze on anything and everything, and marvelled at the beauty that is beyond our casual gaze. The camera's macro lens doesn't take us quite into the microscopic world, but it does reveal the interest that lays within our wider field of view, and that is, for me, its main attraction.

I remember being told at school about the distinctiveness of of ferns, and looked through my microscope at the spores on the underside of the plentiful Yorkshire Dales bracken . This plant is a known carcinogen, often being implicated in the deaths of farm animals, and responsible for the relatively high incidence of stomach cancer in Japan and Korea where the young stems are eaten as a vegetable. My image of a winter-brown bracken frond from my garden was taken against the light of a window to reveal the detail of the interesting leaves.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f18
Shutter Speed: 0.5
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7EV
Image Stabilisation: Off