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Our modern microscope objectives still look much the same as those that were produced a century ago. In contrary, everything has radically changed in photography.
Who among you would use the photographic equipment as shown below in order to produce photomicrographs?

[scientific photomicrography, a century ago]

Small microscopic camera by Moeller, Germany (1890).
Illustration from W. Behrens: Leitfaden der botanischen Mikroskopie. Braunschweig 1890.

Please note the tripod magnifying glass for focus control on the frosted glass screen and the lead counterweight cube.
The full weight of the equipment rests on the small tube of a small microscope.

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Photographic camera by Neuhauss, Germany (1890).
Illustration taken from W. Behrens: Leitfaden der botanischen Mikroskopie. Braunschweig 1890.
Due to the considerable length of the construction the photographer had to use a thread in order to handle the microscope focusing.

But there can be no doubt that e.g. the famous ant-photographer Harald Doering took his fascinating photomicrographs by means of such an archaic equipment.
The photomicrographs of the pale diatom  Amphipleura pellucida  by Henry van Heurck in 1890 are unsurpassed in resolution even today.
We have difficulties sometimes today when trying to reach the same image quality with our hyper-modern digital equipment.

Why ?

It is correct that the photography through a microscope has become easier. But, honestly, who is willing today to sit three days behind the microscope in order to wait for the moment when a tardigrade baby will come out of its egg?

[ waitung for something to happen ]

It is not alway easy to follow microscopic events over time ...

Today nobody has enough time for such a procedure: most of us have to delete hundred spam mails per week, have to read the daily and weekly newspapers and special interest magazines, have to watch television, do sports, check childrens' homework, take part in many social activities ...

One way out of this continuous lack of time is automatic time-lapse photography. Most modern ccd cameras in principal can be controlled by personal computers and have the automatically taken photographs copied to hard disk immediately. On the other hand it is a sad fact that the software bundled with the cameras mostly has the "nice album of my dog" intellectual level only. At this point the internet will usually offer some help.

But please be aware of the fact that there is always some risk of fire when leaving electrical equipment, in particular power supplies, lamps and computer CRTs unattended. It is much more safe to use low-voltage LED illumination, to turn off the monitor and to avoid those "tiny & always hot" power supplies.

We have used a freeware camera control program by Pinetreecomputing. The program controls an Olympus consumer ccd camera and takes a photograph every 30 seconds. This doesn't sound to be very much, but when calculating you will find out that 2880 photographs will be taken in 24 hours. The still images can be re-combined to an accelerated movie:

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Echiniscus tardigrades, ready for hatching (video clip).
Speed of film increased by a factor of 150.
Obviously the echinisci remain in a rather constant orientation within their eggs. Mouth tube and stylets look as if they were fixed to the wall of the eggs.
Reduced image quality due to subdued light an big water volume in the micro aquarium.

In the next issue we will show two further "time-lapse" video clips documenting the next steps in hatching.


Hermann Schoepf: Das Mikrofoto. Düsseldorf 1957.
(In this remarkable book, p. 101, we can find a portrait of the German photographer Harald Doering, dressed in suit with tie, with thick spectacle glasses, sitting in front of an impressive optical bank with lots of technical devices. In the background there is a poster size photomicrograph made by him showing an encounter of two ants, very similar to a modern silicon world computer simulation - but obviously showing pure reality.)

William B. Carpenter: The Microscope and its Revelations. 7th ed., London 1891.
(On table X there is a photograph by Dr. Roderich Zeiss showing the diatom Pleurosigma angulatum in a resolution which has not been equalled since, and on table XI a further photomicrograph by Dr. Henri van Heurck representing the diatom Amphipleura pellucida .
The latter photomicrograph was taken by means of a Zeiss objective with a 1.6 (!) numerical aperture and it resolves this tiny diatom not only down to its lines but to its dots.)

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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