The gifts of microscopes to our understanding is so profound that one has to ask: what are the gifts of the microscopist? Here is my opinion. The gift of the great microscopist is the ability to think with the eyes and see with the brain. Deep revelations into the nature of living things continue to travel on beams of light.
- Daniel Mazia
Rapid growth in nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and biomimetic materials are transforming the environment and redefining our perception of a natural world. Without seeing this world first-hand, a layer of disbelief separates scientific practitioners and the lay public. The arts has a rich history in incorporating modern scientific instrumentation to advance a creative practice: da Vinci analyzed light to usher in a new era of realism in painting, the earliest computers’ test tones were repurposed to create music. It turns out that one of the most significant scientific instruments ever created is not so ubiquitous in the arts, despite the incredible landscapes and alien creatures that inhabit the micrometre scale. My attempts at understanding fundamental aspects of our changing world led this ongoing exploration of light, scale, and material.
Being a 17th century invention with many years of innovation behind it, the microscope is fairly common, not too expensive, and incredibly modular. However, it does take practice, and documentation on using it creatively is not as common as something like a telescope. Along with learning about the technical properties of a microscope and how it bends light to produce an image, the real skill lies in preparing samples that are optimized for its extremely narrow depth of field.
I use an Omano OM88T clinical trinocular compound microscope with a variety of objectives I found off eBay. The trinocular port has an Olympus 2.5x photoeyepiece paired to a camera floating on an animation stand with a bellows to block ambient light. Cameras used include a Mamiya 645 medium format and Canon 6D full frame digital camera. I use simple polarizing photo filters to achieve cross-polarization, and a custom filter inserted into the diaphragm to achieve darkfield.