Simple Way to Obtain Macro Photography

On September 24, 2006, I was dispatched to a working residential fire, when I arrived on scene the firefighters were in a defensive operation. The homeowner was out of town at the time of the fire; therefore, the fire vented through the roof from the exterior of the home. It was too dangerous for the firefighters to enter the interior, so a ladder truck and large size hand lines were used to extinguish the fire. The construction of the home was wood framed, and consisted of a single level with a basement. By the time the firefighters had the fire under control, the center portion of the roof either col- lapsed inward or burned away.

When I started conducting my investigation I founded electrical wiring in several sec- tions of the wall and attic that had beading on the wiring. To document my findings I needed to get a close up of the beading so that I could show my findings to the electrical engineer that was assisting me in my investigation. I wanted to protect the wires as much as possible, but when using my Nikon D70s with an 18 to 70 MM lens, I was unable to obtain the close up photograph. During my investigation I was using a magnifying glass looking for arcing, beading and penciling. Without having a macro lens I was not sure how I was going to get the close photographs of the wiring to capture the condition of the wiring.


Figure 1 – Picture shot through a magnifying glass.


Figure 2 – Picture shot with camera  held against the magnifying glass.


Figure 3 – Picture of switch with the magnifying glass pressed against the camera lens shows switch was in the on position.

The magnifying glass that I was using gave me the  idea of put- ting it to the camera lens to see if I could get a clear close up shot. I tried several different shots ex- perimenting each time. I held the magnifying glass several inches from my camera lens.   

(Figure 1)  The photograph turned out, but still lacked the close up that I was looking for.  I then put the magnifying glass against the camera lens and was able to get a focused close up shot of the wiring.  (Figure 2) The picture was clear. This technique allowed me to get a close photo of the wiring condition without potentially damage to the wire. In addition, there was a light switch on the wall that powered some of the wiring. I wanted to document the position of the light switch to see if it was in the on or off position. Through the lens the switch appeared to be in the on position. With the magnifying glass pressed against the lens, I was provided the opportunity to get a close up showing the outlet was indeed in the “on” position at the time of the fire (Figure 3).

I experimented with a different compact flash card while taking the pictures using different focal lengths with the magnifying glass. By using this technique, I was able to get different shots of the beading on the wiring as to the location orientation in which it was found.

Unfortunately, a full electrical analysis was not possible due to destruction of the electrical wiring. Therefore, the fire was classi- fied as undetermined. The magnifying glass that I used was approximately the same size as my camera lens (68mm). In the future if I need to take close up photography, I will have my magnifying glass close by.

Thank you David, as always, I would encourage all of you who have ideas, or techniques that have worked for you in the past, to share them with the membership. I have received a few (a very few) and hope to highlight them in the future. You don’t have to write an entire article, but just drop me an email with the idea or technique to In order that my email program does not immediately toss you in the “junk mailbox” because it does not recognize your name, please place “Seen on Scene” in the Subject line of your email. After reviewing the email and your idea, if I need additional information for the article I will contact you.

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