Saturday, August 26, 2023

Photosynthesis photography: Making images with living plant leaves

How to make photographs using plant leaves: the technique, examples, f/0.5 camera lens construction, and tips & tricks that I learned along the way.

Inspiration for this project came from a 1970's video made by The Royal Institution:

Starch formation refs:

Video describing inkjet printed photomasks:

A different technique to make leaf prints:

Video from Alpha Phoenix on making photos with cyanotype:

Ray optics simulator:

Giant tweezers:

Anhydrous ethanol:

Hanging basket geranium plant:

Methanol toxicity:  Skin absorption in a quantity high enough to be a problem is rare, according to this.

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  1. Hey Ben, weird camera guy here who does Ultra Large Format stuff. I'm curious about your fresnel lens. The fresnel lens was a 100mm aperture and 100mm focal length, but what about the second glass lens? Can you elaborate on the focal length and choices you made for that? Thank you so much.

    1. Kyle, the fresnel was a 300mm dia, 200mm focal length. The smaller glass lens was positioned about 16cm behind, and was a 120mm diameter, 120mm focal length. The best position for light gathering occurs when the smaller lens is magnified by the larger lens to the point that the apparent size of the smaller lens nearly fills the 300mm when looking into the lens system from afar. I measured the combined focal length at 150mm, with 240mm entrance pupil (F/0.63). Most of these choices are limited by what lenses you can find. I just ordered some much larger fresnel lenses, and plan to experiment more with this. I think I will do a video on "what is the minimum f number for a camera lens" since it is not a trivial answer.

  2. Howdy Ben, off topic but I am not sure how to find your email. I have an SEM with EDX we are looking to give to a good home. If you are interested, you can email me at

    let me know - bob

  3. I am a stuednt from Taiwan.
    I have some question about the video "DIY Custom LCD" in 2013.
    1.What is the brand of the photoresist. According to the website I search the photoresist is AZ1512 is it right?
    2.Where can I buy the photoresist and developer.
    3.Do you have any detail process because the process in the video are not really clear.

    If you see the message please email me at

    Thank you.