Friday, October 29, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

I've had intense myopia since the second grade -- without corrective lenses, I can't even make out the big 'E'. So, I have to make an annual pilgrimage to my eye doctor for various obscure tests (why yes, I can see that blurry-shaky thing at the corner of my vision, and the balloon on the road in the distance, and managed to go another year without my retina detaching!). Last but not least of these is the bit where she puts these drops in my eye to make them dilate. Hello, f/1.4 eyes!

The bad news is the same drops that hold your pupils open super-wide also paralyze some of the muscles that allow your eyes to focus. So, dilation inevitably results in this 2-4 hour window for me where it's almost impossible for me to read or focus on anything close. As a bonus, everything is overexposed, so stepping out into natural light is painful if I'm not wearing sunglasses.

It's generally not a good experience for me, since I spend my day reading and writing things on a computer terminal, or taking photos and examining them on the screen.

So, naturally, I decided to do something tricky -- get a macro shot of my eye while it was in this state. Hey, it's Halloween: attack of the mole men and all that.

I had a few problems: With a macro shot, depth of field is going to be razor thin. And if I wanted to beat this back with smaller apertures, I was going to either need to be out in direct sunlight or to use a flash -- neither of which were going to happen in my state. And even if I did have more than a frog's eyelash of focus, AF is tricky with macro at best. So, I had less than an inch of depth of field, manual focus, I was holding the camera, and I was so unable to focus my *own* eyes, I couldn't even tell if the frame would be in focus.

Pixels are free though, so I just did something simple. Got roughly in focus on my eye, switched to manual, then took about ten frames, moving the camera gradually from the focus distance in and out. For light, I used my house's built-in softbox -- the bathroom with the frosted window.

As I was squinting at my eye on the frame, I realized I was picking up a reflection in my eye of the camera. So, I tried to find a place where the reflection was the most visible, and positioned myself there -- on the theory that a huge pupil would be cool, but one with stuff in it would be cooler. Mission accomplished! I love the way my lens is right in the center of my pupil -- iris in iris.

Liked the effect, and I'm only a tiny bit sad that the opportunity for this only comes once a year.

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