Sunset Moth Scales Macro
The scales of a sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus) that I bought in for this purpose. The first pic I've taken for months and months whilst my PC has been to the computer doctor and back, and whilst I've been preoccupied with other projects. This is a day-flying moth and the iridescent parts of the wings which make it so beautiful apparently do not actually contain any pigment; rather, the colors originate from optical interference. I actually even slightly desaturated this image believe it or not!
Scales are usually pigmented, but some types of scales are metallic, or iridescent, without pigments; because the thickness of the platelets is on the same order as the wavelength of visible light the plates lead to structural coloration and iridescence through the physical phenomenon described as thin-film optics, the same optical process responsible for the pretty colours floating on soap bubbles. The other interesting thing to note is that these scales are curved to an unusual degree so they probably reflect and pick up on light from a wide variety of angles, more so than most. See for example the difference in curvature compared to these scales from a different type moth last year.
I used a single flash at 1/16 for this at 1/180, diffused with a polystyrene cup over a Nikon CFI Plan 10x/0.25NA, with a Raynox DCR-150 as infinite tube lens at c.210mm. The Raynox, as expected, performs wonderfully as a tube, and once I'm back into the swing of things after finishing my website I hope to use it a lot more and have decent writeups on the equipment setups. And a bit better, it's amazing how rusty you get after a little while =). The lighting was rather flat from a bottom right direction and although little reached the other side (for shadow fill) some may have bounced off the polystyrene to fill in the shadows. This was 78 images stacked, step size 10μm, lazy pmax method stack with zerene stacker, no slabbing.
The magnification here is a shade over 10:1, I'm not especially experienced at this ratio but not bad for a first attempt after a long time. It's pretty hard to control an image like this because the bright iridescence actually really overwhelms everything and you get all sorts of posterisation if you're not careful and specks of dust are obviously volcano sized at this scale! I actually found the hardest part to be getting the wing parallel to the lens, so there are lots of lessons to be learned, especially before braving the JML 20x. Pretty though =).
ED: updated 26/2 with EXIF'd retouched version
Explore #90 25/2/2013 - Thank you!
UPDATE 2014 - I have put together an extreme macro photography learning site to explain the techniques and equipment used for all my macro photos here in Flickr which is now ready. To point to a few of the links that people who want to learn this stuff might like to have a browse of:
Focus Stacking, Focus Stack Preparation, Shooting A Stack, Stack Processing, Stack Post Processing, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 28 mm f/4, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 35 mm f/4, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 80 mm f/4, Nikon El-Nikkor 50 mm f/2.8N, Reject Enlarger Lenses, JML Optical 21 mm f/3.5, 20 mm Microfilm f/2.8, Anybrand MP-E 65 Macro Lens, Manual, TTL, Rear Curtain Sync, Extreme Macro Backgrounds, Single Colour Background, The Gradient Background, Adjustable Flash Shoe Mounts, Extension Tubes, Eyepiece, Field Monitor, Flash Bracket, Focusing Helicoid, Holding Tools, Lens Adapters, M42 Iris, Macro Tripod, Making A Macro Beanbag, Insect Photography