Adapting a flash gun
for photomicrography

A design by James Evarts, US

Text compiled by Dave Walker from information supplied by James Evarts

Top Image:
Nikon SB-E flash gun with the disassembled home made mount. Far left is the swivel mount with hotshoe fitting; in the middle is the sturdy base which is designed to accurately align with the microscope base. The pin stop on the base ensures centration of the flash gun beneath the condenser.

Bottom image:
The assembled unit fits snugly against the base of James Evarts' Zeiss GFL microscope. The flash gun can easily be swung in or out of view to use the internal microscope lamp for composition and focusing, and the flash for photography.

Images by James Evarts.

Anyone who has tried to photograph rapidly moving micro-organisms under the microscope will know that it can be a frustrating business, both keeping the organism in focus and within the field of view. There are proprietary solutions like 'Protoslo' and 'Detain' available to 'thicken' the water and which slow down an organism. The Victorians and some amateurs finely compress the organism using compressoria but these are hard to source nowadays.

Even with these aids, to take sharp photographs (especially of features like cilia) often requires a short duration exposure, and electronic flash is a convenient way of doing this. There are a number of designs that have been proposed to use commercial flashguns for photomicrography. A particularly elegant and effective design has been used by James Evarts to take the splendid photomicrographs which have been displayed in earlier issues of Micscape.

James has sent us the details of this design and the key features are shown above. They may be of interest as they could be easily adapted to other microscope models. The machined block and swivel mount were made by James in his home workshop. It has the advantage that it does not alter the flash gun, but there is a plastic hood and condenser lens mounted on the flash itself. James remarks that because of the accurately machined swivel mount only a split second is lost between viewing the subject with the in-built microscope lamp to switching to the flash for photography, so the composition and focus required is maintained. James has successfully combined the flash illumination with techniques like oblique illumination to give striking images of protozoa.

Comments to James Evarts welcomed.


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Published in the June 1999 edition of Micscape Magazine.

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