Reading Convention

Saturday 9th March 2019

The annual convention of the Reading Microscopical Society was again organised by Mike Woof and Kit Brownlee and held in the familiar venue of St Peter’s Church Hall in Earley, just outside Reading. The meeting had been promoted on Facebook, and it was good to see some new faces, as well as lots of Quekett members, among the visitors. There was more chatter on Facebook after the meeting, from happy buyers. The morning was devoted to sales and exhibits, followed by a break for lunch and then 2 lectures in the afternoon.

The Hall was opened at 9:00 a.m. with the first hour for setting up. As usual, there were some interesting exhibits as well as a good range of microscopes, objectives, eyepieces, accessories, slides and books for sale.


Bogdan Alecsa brought along his new plankton net (with a long telescopic handle) to ask the experts if was likely to work, and was relieved to be advised that it should be fine.

Bogdan Alecsa with his plankton netBogdan Alecsa with his plankton net

Joan Bingley brought along the Quekett Shop with books, binders, ties, leaflets, notelets and USB drives with the archive of the Journal.

Quekett shopQuekett shop

Kit Brownlee used a binocular Olympus KHC with TF transformer to show a slide of Ptilota plumosa (a red marine alga, with diatoms in situ) by Colonel Basevi. Kit also showed a copy of an old book The Marine Botanist by Isabella Gifford, and two bottles of cedarwood immersion oil.

Kit Brownlee’s exhibitKit Brownlee’s exhibit

Pam Hamer exhibited a modern prepared slide, a thin section of a rock from the Stac Fada complex in Scotland. This was prepared by Robert Gill at Geosec and sent along with a small specimen of the rock. Robert provides a variety of rock sections, many relating to the historically important sequences on the north-west Scottish coast. This section shows the complex structure in a rock which provides evidence for a meteorite strike believed to have been close to Lairg far to the east. Pam showed images in plane and crossed polars illustrating the structure of the Stac Fada complex which includes circular features described as radiating crystals of chlorite within the igneous inclusions in the rock. See Meteorite impact deposit, Stoer Group (Torridonian) From Stac Fada, Bay of Stoer.

Meteorite impact depositMeteorite impact deposit

Meteorite impact depositMeteorite impact deposit (Vickers 5× pol objective, field of view 1 mm, single polariser, transmitted light)

Chris Millward showed a Peltier cooling device extracted from a cooler for beer cans, and under his Olympus VMZ stereomicroscope we could watch water droplets condensing from the air and then see ice crystals forming in the droplets. The surface temperature of the device was between −10 and −15°C. Illumination was provided by a Schott KL1500 fibre optic unit with a double gooseneck.

Chris Millward, Dennis Fullwood and Jacky McPhersonChris Millward (seated) with Dennis Fullwood and Jacky McPherson

Chris’s other exhibits included a nest of a long-tailed tit, a Watson W.I.S.E. image shearing eyepiece, and 2 unusual metallurgical microscopes from Carl Zeiss and Hund Wetzlar that were so heavy that they needed counterweights to take the load off the focusing mechanisms

Stephen Parker was showing lots of Möller histological slides under his Leica DM500 microscope, with a Chinese inspection camera sending images to his Samsung monitor.

Stephen ParkerStephen Parker

Tony Pattinson had been pampering his brown hydra so that they would put on a good show at the Convention, and we had never seen such a dense population before. Tony brought his macroscope so that we could observe the hydra, and his PZO stereomicroscope and trinocular Olympus CH-2 so that we could take a closer look at his specimens and slides. Tony was selling copies of his books and stained slides of Crangonyx pseudogracilis.

Tony Pattinson, Robert Ratford and Steve DurrTony Pattinson (left), Robert Ratford and Steve Durr

The lamp over the mini aquarium is a Neewer PT-176S.

Tony Pattinson’s macroscopeTony Pattinson’s macroscope

Brown hydraBrown hydra

Mike Samworth was promoting the Postal Microscopical Society, with some old photographs and some notebooks that accompany the boxes of slides that are sent to on-circuit members.

Chris Thomas was giving demonstrations of image stacking using Picolay, a free program that has recently changed to a 64-bit version that is faster and can handle huge images.

Chris Thomas and David RobertsChris Thomas (left) and David Roberts


Joan Bingley brought along several items from the estates of deceased Quekett members, to raise money for the families. Items included a Russian microscope to which Tony Saunders-Davies had added a gliding stage. It had not proved possible to bring Harold Hillman’s equipment to the Convention, but there was an album of photographs of his microscopes and accessories, with an e-mail to contact. Harold’s slides (mostly diatoms) were available at £2 each.

Effects of deceased Quekett membersEffects of deceased Quekett members

Gordon Brown had mainly British microscopes for sale, including a Beck 47 that looked as if it had never been used, 2 binocular Watson Microsystem 70s, 2 trinocular Vickers Patholuxes, a Baker Series 4 with 4 condensers, and a Leitz binocular.

Gordon Brown and Mark BurgessGordon Brown (left) and Mark Burgess (How am I going to get that home on the bus?)

Steve Gill was selling several microscopes, mostly from the estate of Steve Edgar, and a chemical balance. The microscopes included a Watson Edinburgh metallurgical, two Zeiss jug-handles, a Beck 48, a Charles Perry, a PZO, a Baker, a Koristka, and a Leitz stereo with a ball table for tilting specimens. Steve also had simple microscopes by Beck and Watson.

Steve Gill’s microscopesSteve Gill’s microscopes

Phil Greaves was selling eyepieces at 50p each, nosepieces and empty objective canisters, but most of his space was filled with cheap books and free brochures from the estate of Brian Davidson. The brochures included Bausch & Lomb, BBT Krauss, Beck, Euromex, Hensholdt, Koristka, Leitz, Meopta, Motic, Reichert, James Swift, Watson and Wild. There were no Olympus brochures because they have been passed to Alan Wood to scan and post on his website.

Phil Taylor, Danny Ferri and Peter WakemanPhil Taylor, Danny Ferri and Peter Wakeman choosing books

Phil Greaves’ booksPhil Greaves’ books (Peter Wakeman, Joan Bingley, Steve Durr, Nigel Ashby, Lisa Ashby)

Phil Greaves’ brochuresPhil Greaves’ brochures

John Millham was selling some desirable microscopes, including a huge trinocular Leica DMR, binocular and trinocular Leitz Dialux 22 EB, a binocular Olympus CH-2, a binocular Nikon inverted, and a trinocular Nikon compound.

John Millham’s microscopesJohn Millham’s microscopes

John also had lots of accessories, including viewing heads, a discussion head, a rotating stage, a phase condenser, some exposure meters and several objectives and eyepieces (including an Olympus NFK 2.5× photo eyepiece, which is becoming scarce).

John Millham’s accessoriesJohn Millham’s accessories

Stephen Parker was selling a Vickers M74 polarising microscope, a student microscope, a Miyacope zoom microscope with its wooden box, and a couple of digital “Mobile Microscopes”.

Stephen Parker’s microscopesStephen Parker’s microscopes

Mike Samworth was selling some slides, and also selling some Olympus OM and Canon equipment that belonged to Doug Richardson, including an Olympus OM-2N camera, a T32 flash, several hot shoes and flash cables, and some Canon remote controls.

Mark Shephard was selling several trays of slides, a few books and some empty slide boxes.

Mark ShephardMark Shephard

Dave Skeet was selling slides (4 for £1) and microscopes for Barry Ellam, who is starting to reduce his collection. Highlights included a Steindorff Microbe Hunter, a Reichert Zetopan and a DIC outfit by PZO that included a condenser with a variable-width slit. Other equipment included a Lomo trinocular head, stereomicroscopes by Beck, Kassel and Watson, a CTS metallurgical microscope, and monocular microscopes by Beck and Leitz.

Dave Skeet, Mark Shephard and Mike SamworthDave Skeet (seated), Mark Shephard and Mike Samworth

PZO DIC outfitPZO DIC outfit

Spike Walker was selling cheap boxes of coverslips.

Spike Walker’s coverslipsSpike Walker’s coverslips

Paul Wheatley was selling a binocular Olympus BHS, a Nikon SMZ-1B stereomicroscope, a monocular Wild M11, an Olympus CK inverted, an Olympus VMZ stereomicroscope, 2 Swift stereomicroscopes (one with its carrying case), a Swift MP120 polarising microscope, a trinocular Microtec with phase contrast, an Olympus LSD illuminator with TGHM transformer, and some bulbs, eyepieces and objectives.

Paul Wheatley, Jeremy Poole and Pam HamerPaul Wheatley (left), Jeremy Poole and Pam Hamer

Paul Wheatley’s microscopesSome of Paul Wheatley’s microscopes

Mike Woof had 2 Olympus transformers, a common 6 V 30 W TF and an unusual 12 V 100W TH, a Beck mechanical stage, and a few objectives.

Mike Woof’s transformersMike Woof’s transformers

Fluorescence filtersFluorescence filters


After a break for lunch, we moved to the large meeting room upstairs and Mike Woof introduced the 2 speakers. Robert Ratford recorded the lectures on a video camera, and the videos will be made available here when they have been edited.

Audience for the lecturesAudience for the lectures

The title of Spike Walker’s lecture was “Making the best of it”, and he explained how he uses Adobe Photoshop and Helicon Focus to enhance the images that he records on his camera. Images recorded on transparency films often showed messy backgrounds, coverslip edges, dirt and the colour of mountants and embedding media, but with digital all of these problems can be fixed. Curved and deep specimens were a problem with film, and while stopping down the substage iris increased the depth of field it reduced the resolution. Now image stacking can increase depth of field while maintaining resolution. Field of view can be increased by taking a series of overlapping images and then stitching them; this technique can also produce huge images with excellent definition.

Faded slides can be improved by increasing the contrast and saturation of the digital images. Inverting the colours to produce a negative can produce striking images. Some of Spike’s images that look like dark ground have actually been produced by painstakingly painting out the original background with a 5-pixel black brush. Spike recommended the Auto Tone feature in Photoshop. He uses polarisers to introduce colours, and he likes the Cokin VariColor Polarizers.

Answering questions from the audience, Spike told us that he does not use layers, that he uses a 50% burn tool to remove haloes, and that the images he sends to agencies vary from 5000 to 10,000 pixels across.

Spike WalkerSpike Walker

Spike Walker “Making the best of it” and the first part of Phil Greaves “Twenty slides from my cabinet”

Click the arrow to start the video; click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for a larger version

Second part of Phil Greaves “Twenty slides from my cabinet”

Click the arrow to start the video; click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for a larger version

Phil Greaves talked us through “Twenty slides from my cabinet”, of varying age and value but all with an interesting story. Specimens ranged from fossils to fairy flies, including a Klaus Kemp arrangement of diatoms as choir boys and an E. D. Evens slide with several different sections and stains.

Phil GreavesPhil Greaves

Click the arrows to move through the slides; click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version


Our thanks to Kit Brownlee and Mike Woof for organising another enjoyable day for microscopists, and to everyone who put on exhibits for us or brought along items for us to buy at bargain prices.

The Quekett Microscopical Club provided a grant towards the cost of this event, as part of its remit as a charity to promote microscopy.

Report and photographs by Alan Wood

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