Photo Blogging Challenge – Macros (August 2018)

Most bloggers quit within three to six months of starting a blog, so it’s pretty amazing that this photo blogging challenge has been running for more than 5 years! Our host/organizer usually posts a specific theme each month, but every now and then it’s photographer’s choice.

Three things made me especially grateful for the freedom to choose my own theme for August:

  1. Wildfire Smoke – 2018 is the smokiest year on record for Calgary (records go back to 1953), and most of the smoky hours were recorded in August. Many days, Environment Canada issued an air quality advisory recommending anyone with asthma stay indoors. So I appreciated the option to choose a theme that I could photograph indoors.
  2. Purposeful Practice – I find there’s a huge increase in the value of online photography course when I practice what I’ve learned. Making macro photography my theme for the month motivated me to apply what I learned by viewing  Don Komorechka‘s macro photography course.
  3. Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count – Canada’s annual bumble bee census is a citizen science project that runs all of July and August. I missed the first half of the window for submitting observations, so was determined to make up for it in August. It’s very helpful to take macro photographs from multiple angles when trying to distinguish between the 18+ bumble bee species found in Alberta.

I dug out the macro lens Mr. GeoK gave me for Christmas several years ago, raided our mini-maker space for clamps and other bits and pieces, and got to work. I am particularly pleased with these results:

1. Water Droplet Refraction

I tweeted some results from my first attempt to apply the lessons from Don Komorechka’s course. A lot has to come together to get an image that includes fairly sharp refractions in the water droplets: manual focus, everything in parallel, appropriately sized and spaced water droplets, lighting, etc. Even with the benefit of the online course, my “worth processing” rate was only about 3% of the more than 500 photos I took during two practice sessions.

From my second attempt at water droplet refraction macro photography, using a cone flower from our back yard and a piece of curly grass from the planter on our front porch.

I’ve admired Don’s macro photography skills ever since I stumbled across his Sky Crystals Indiegogo campaign back in 2013 and now that I’ve tried to apply some of his techniques, I’m even more impressed.

2. Hitchhiker

One aspect of the online macro workshop was insect photography, and while I didn’t seek out flowers with insects, both times I brought in a cone flower for water droplet refraction practice, they came with hitchhikers. This immature green aphid peeked around the front of the flower, but mostly hung out on the back side near the stem.


A bonus aspect to finding the background flower for water droplet refraction macro photography in our back yard is the occasional hitchhiker, like this immature green aphid that emerged from the back of the cone flower used in my second attempt at this type of photography.

3. Another Water Droplet Refraction

I found it incredibly difficult to end up with large, relatively evenly spaced water droplets on goat’s beard seeds. Using an orange and yellow flower in the background resulted in a more summery photograph.

Water droplets on a Western salsify (aka goat’s beard) seed, refracting an Arizona blanket flower placed in the background.

For those interested in a free resource to get started with flower macro photography, I recommend this short, free guide from Photzy.

4. Bumble Bee

The large patch of Echinacea flowers in our back yard was my main location for making observations for the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count, others being sunflowers at Mount Royal University and bee balm at a nearby water pumping station. It’s particularly helpful to photograph the head, tail, shoulder area and main body (thorax) to get as much information as possible to help identify the species.

One of a half-dozen species of bumble bees submitted for the Great Canadian #BumbleBeeCount, mostly found in the large patch of cone flowers in our back yard. I tentatively identified this one as a Hunt bumblebee.

5. Oil and Water

I saved the email linking to the short, free guide to making abstracts using oil and water for more than a year before the smoke kept me inside and prodded me to give it a try this month. My 90 minutes of fiddling with my set up (mostly lighting and tripod), changing out backgrounds, stirring the tray of water and canola oil, etc., netted six images worth spending any time processing. It’s a bit fussy, thanks to the fact that any little bit of dust or lint disrupts the surface tension and becomes very obvious at macro+ scale. The cloning tool was my best friend. 🙂

The pink and blue background and arrangement of circles is a favourite from my first attempt at oil and water macro photography.

And that’s a wrap for my chosen theme this month! What theme would you choose? If you leave a comment to let me know, you’ll help me out with some ideas for next time Photographer’s Choice comes up in the rotation. Thanks!

Check out what other participants chose by heading over to a ‘lil Hoohaa. He’s running a bit late this month, so give it a day or two to be on the safe side. While you’re there, please consider joining us! This photo blogging challenge is a low-stress photo assignment. For each month’s theme, you’re asked to share five photos; the amount of accompanying text is up to you. The next theme will be posted at a ‘lil Hoohaa in early September.

3 thoughts on “Photo Blogging Challenge – Macros (August 2018)

  1. Pingback: Out & About with the GeoKs - Photo Blogging Challenge – Liquid (October 2019)

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  3. Why is there not a ‘love” button! These are stunning macro captures. A macro lens is on my wish list and has been for quite a while. But, they are pricey…too much for the budget. Eighteen plus species of bumblebees?! Wow. We have some, but carpenter bees are more common. Many people mistake a docile carpenter bee for the more aggressive bumblebee around here. Again, your macros are simply fantastic. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. xoxo

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