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macro on shoestring

Posted by Au Lim On Wednesday, March 18, 2009 1 comments

i love macro. i'm usually homebound (hello mom of 5 kids :-P) and seldom travel so this is one arena i can play with. it also appeals to my inner geek, since it mostly feels like peering into a microscope. therefore, among the lenses on the top of my wishlist is the Micro Nikkor 105mm f2.8VR. if i were to push it, i'd also love to have the Micro Nikkor 200mm f4. thing is, i can't afford them yet. here is my next best thing: el cheapo extension tubes. they make me have the ability to focus closer to the subject, hence magnification, but i lose the ability to focus at objects that are further away.

the extension tubes have no lenses

so my next solution is to get me real macro glass. since i don't have moolah to score my dream lenses, i opted to get one of the Nikon (really) old "legend" lenses: the Micro Nikkor 55mm f3.5 AI. i won it for a good price on Ebay. if i attach it to the extension tubes, i get even more magnification.

the teleconverter has optics

but i wanted MORE and so i went for a teleconverter next: the Nikon TC-201. this is another old model glass but since i have an old micro glass anyway it makes sense to me. i hunted yet again on Ebay and got this just around Christmas last year :-D this one i love for giving me the magnification without having too come close to the subject so it is less likely that i'll scare a bug away. i am also able to focus at a far away object. the teleconverter effectively doubles my focal length. the downside is losing light-- 2 aperture stops--and (they say) some image degradation. being inexperienced, i hardly notice the second point... or maybe, i'm just too happy to get the extra magnification.

if i combine them all together, i get pretty cool results, too. this shoestring macro combo suits me just fine... at least for now. i don't mind them being totally manual focusing since i prefer to do macro on manual anyway. here are some sample shots.

shot with the 55mm Micro

with the 55mm Micro + extension tubes

with the 55mm Micro + teleconverter + extension tubes

*photo at the very top: taken with this same combo but cropped closer.

these stuff don't meter and won't report aperture settings to the EXIF on anything less than a D300 (yep, not even on a D90). and this is another reason why i *heart* my D300. :-) there will be no electronic controls for the aperture settings either. however, they are still usable because i did use them even on my trusty D40. but being old gear, this means i can also use them on my old film camera, the Nikon F4. adventures with film in the future but for now, there's miles more to explore on digital.

i SEA food!

Posted by Au Lim On Friday, March 13, 2009 4 comments
sundays are often seafood days for us simply because i do marketing on sundays and seafood are always best cooked fresh. i'm sharing here a couple of recipes that often find it's way on our sunday lunch table. if you like spicy, Thai-inspired flavors, you will certainly love this one. it's a modified version of something i tasted at a friend's party quite some time ago. i couldn't forget how delicious it was so i tried reproducing it. this is the result. the broth is warming and yummy while the tahong meat is tasty. it's a real pleaser for spicy seafood lovers.

Au's Spicy Basil Tahong


2 kilos fresh tahong (mussels)
2-3 tbsps. Lee Kum Kee black bean garlic sauce
10 or so cloves crushed garlic
about a thumb-size of ginger, sliced
2 or 3 Thai bird chilis (siling labuyo)
about 1/4 c rough chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cube chicken bouillon (Knorr cubes)
1/2 a stick of butter (about 1/4 of a block of anchor)
2 tbsp. veg. oil for sauteing
soy sauce (if needed) to taste
2-3 cups water or chicken broth
about 5 calamansi (Philippine lime or kaffir lime)

1. clean out the mussels, removing the "beard" from the meat but leaving the meat in the shell. set aside.
2. heat oil in wok. throw in sliced ginger. cook till slightly golden. add chopped garlic and also allow to turn slightly golden.
3. add black bean garlic sauce and chicken cube. then add the chili and half of the chopped basil. cook quickly. make sure the pan is not too hot because the chili heat will sting your eyes and nose.
4. quickly add the mussels and stir them around.
5. add water or broth, whichever is available to you. let the water heat up to cook the mussels. add the rest of the chopped basil.
6. lastly, add the butter. this makes the broth yummy. let simmer a short while so the butter melts and blends with the broth.
7. just before serving, squeeze in calamansi. serve hot.


here's another recipe that's oh so easy but oh so satisfying for those looking for strong flavors: Oyster Ceviche. ang sosyal no? in Tagalog, Kinilaw na Talaba... heheh...

Oyster Ceviche

10-12 FRESH oysters (talaba), shucked and removed from the shell
1 red onion, diced
2 long green chili (the sili used for sinigang), chopped into round shape
a thumb-size piece of ginger, sliced
a dash (or two) of salt and sugar to taste
1/4 c white vinegar (sometimes i add apple cider vinegar to this)
1 cup hot water

1. put the shucked oysters in colander and blanch with hot water. drain a bit and set aside.
2. in a small bowl, put in all the rest of the ingredients and add the white vinegar, stir.
3. put the blanched oysters in this mix and stir it around to blend flavors.
4. put in your serving dish and refrigerate for a short while--maybe 10 mins. serve cool.

TIP: never eat this kilawin on an empty stomach. it could get disastrous... :-D

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