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Don Komarechka
Works at Georgian College
Attended Georgian College
Lived in barrie, ontario
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Don Komarechka

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Shimmering Star - Celebrating an April Snowstorm
Throughout the winter, I photograph hundreds of snowflakes, but many of them never get properly edited, as 4-6 hours of work typically goes into each one. This one didn’t make my Snowflake-a-Day project, but it did catch my attention a few days ago when I noticed snow in the forecast again. View large and zoom in!
Late April might occasionally see a snowfall, and we’re in the middle of some nasty weather at the moment. The temperatures are too warm to take any useful photographs, and I know most people are cursing the white stuff when the flowers have already begun to bloom, so I present this snowflake to make up for the dismal state of the weather. It’s not all bad.
Snowflakes like this only fall a few times a year, when the conditions allow for stable and slow growth. Calm weather, cold temperatures (around -10 to -16C or so in the sky) and relatively high humidity can create beautiful crystals like this. The growth conditions were not completely stable however, resulting in a broader design at the beginning and faster growth as the snowflake grew bigger.
You can make an interesting observation from snowflakes like this. Notice how all of the outer branches have rounded and pointed tips, but the inner branches toward the center have rigid edges that contain roughly 60-degree angles? Faster-growing branches result in rounded tips, and slower-growing branches result in rigid tips. The inner areas of a snowflake will continue to grow even after the crystal has expanded outward, but with less water vapour reaching the inner branches, their growth slows and transforms the style of their growth in the process.
This image is created from 54 separate frames, each containing a tiny slice of focus. The snowflakes are photographed on an angle to reveal the fascinating surface detail and reflective properties of ice, but these features come at the cost of depth of field. Using focus stacking techniques and exhaustive editing to make sure the combination of frames is perfect, the entire snowflakes comes into focus after many hours of editing. This crystal took 6 hours to complete.
If you want to learn more about the exact photographic techniques in a step-by-step tutorial, or you find the science behind these winter wonders fascinating, check out Sky Crystals: - you won’t find a better book on the subject that caters to both photographers and science-minded people alike. :)
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Very exquisite! Thx for sharing
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I've completely redesigned my Photography workshops page, now with online registration and exciting courses and workshops coming up in June and July!
Check it out:

I've had many people ask when my "Learning to See" course would be running again - it's currently scheduled for starting dates of June 23rd and July 8th. The crash course covers all of the fundamentals for using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and delves into what makes a good photography.

I'll also be running a water droplet refraction workshop, which explains and fully equips participants to shoot their own refractions (like the image attached to this post). We will push limits and learn a lot over those three hours.

I've also planned a weekend waterfall workshop with will hopefully (weather permitting) include a night sky shoot as well. Class time coupled with a full day and night in the field, it's a great way to get in the "zone" and learn some essential skills used by the best landscape photographers.

More workshops to come through the rest of the summer!
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That would be great! :)
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Woodland Fantasy
I have had the fortune for adventure this past year, and of travels through the Yukon wilderness I was presented with a number of exceptional auroras cascading across the skies.
I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus as concluding my Snowflake-a-Day project resulting in an immeasurable backlog of work, but the catch-up game is nearly won and I’ve been digging through images I haven’t processed for months. I can’t believe that shots like this are still sitting and waiting for me.
These exposures can be difficult. Balancing light collection with depth (aperture), shutter speed with star blur and pushing sensitivity to the limits, I was able to make this image. Shot at F/4, I was at the widest aperture of my 24-105L lens, gathering as much light as possible. At 28mm, I could not extend my shutter speed beyond 15 second, or the stars would be noticeably blurring as the Earth spins. To accomplish this, I needed to shoot at ridiculously high ISO of 10,000. Still looks pretty good for pushing the limits!
The aurora was relatively faint in the night sky, allowing for a good number of stars to shine through it. The brightest auroras aren’t always the most beautiful, as they tend to drown out the stars behind them.
I hope someday to travel to Northern Canada again, having made the trek twice already. Each time I feel it’s the experience of a lifetime, both as a photographer and as a human being.

How about this, #landscapephotography +Landscape Photography +Eric Drumm +Margaret Tompkins? :)
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Come to the CanAm Photo Expo March 20 – 22!
I’ll be speaking on night photography and macro photography in Buffalo, NY this coming weekend! Alongside me will be tons of awesome photographers and imaging professionals. I’m honoured to be included, and I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches on my talks over the weekend. I promise it’ll be a captivating experience!
Any later than today (March 15th) and late registration fees kick in, but even then the cost is very reasonable for the amount of education and entertainment you’ll get. If you’re anywhere near the Buffalo NY region or are looking for a place to escape to next weekend, this is it. :)
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REMINDER - last day to get a second copy of Sky Crystals to give to a library!

Go to and simply add two copies of the book to your cart. Use the coupon code "library" on checkout for the cost of one book to be subtracted from your order. Just promise me that the second copy will be donated to a public library, and I'll ship you two books!

The second copy might have some very minor superficial scuffs or flaws, almost unnoticeable. These books deserve to be read - there is tons of interesting science that is easy to understand, and even some fun tips for preserving snowflakes. Photographers will appreciate the comprehensive tutorial of how the images are created, and I'd love to see more people exploring the world of snowflakes. Help make that happen! :)
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Already ordered! Thanks a lot!
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Snowflake-a-Day #100
For the final image in this year’s series, I decided to take a risk and spend today editing something very unusual and incredibly unique. I think this snowflake is the epitome of the entire project – wonder, beauty and curiosity all rolled into one. View large!
This type of snowflake is very rare. The growth process began as a column but quickly transitioned to plate-type growth, creating two plates of nearly equal size. Both plates then began to grow simple branches, but the top plate grew slightly faster, resulting in a slight acceleration of growth and a larger “footprint” for the next phase.
This snowflake is one of the unusual crystals that transitions from column to plate, and then back to column growth. The longer time in the plate-type stage is unprecedented, and I have no other examples of a snowflake taking this shape. It’s hard to see all of the details of each transition, but having studied snowflakes for a number of years, I can spot plenty of unique features within this design.
The second stage of column growth originates at the edges of the plate, and if fully connected would be considered “scrolls”. You can see some signs of this at the tips of the spires, wrapping around as many as three sides of a hexagon while growing vertically. These spires are reminiscent of needle-type crystals, another exotic form of snowflake.
The extremely unusual structures contained within this snowflake are what I search for each winter. I tried to find something so beautiful and yet so often ignored, and share that with the world. This year I have had the luck of sharing a number of snowflakes that people couldn’t even imagine being a snowflake, and I think this is one of the best examples. It’s also one of the most difficult focus-stacking processes I have ever completed.
This snowflake is extremely three-dimensional, and is photographed on an angle that showcases this depth beautifully… but this poses a number of problems. There are drastic shifts in focus detail, particularly around the spires. These kinds of interactions cause every automatic focus-stacking tool to fail, and even a manual approach will cause halos to form around the edges. Very careful manual corrections and tedious editing can make these pieces fit together. A snowflake is also transparent, and I need to decide what elements should show through a layer of ice where multiple layers are present. It’s an exercise in scientific artistry. I try my best to preserve the best depiction of the crystal, but I need to make countless judgement calls along the way.
And so ends the 2014-2015 Snowflake-a-Day Project. It has been exhausting, frustrating and time-consuming for the past three and a half months. It’s been worth all the effort. I barely made it to the end, and I never found the “perfect snowflake” along the way. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a perfect snowflake, but such a thought won’t stop my search in the years to come.
If you enjoyed this series, I’d love for you to do me a favour. Share your favourite image of the series. Just share the image or post wherever you find it on social media with a few words about what you enjoy about the photograph, and the series in general. Thanks everyone for the support, encouragement and motivation along the way!
and if you want to support my crazy snowflake project further, consider picking up a copy of Sky Crystals - you’ll love the book, but you’ll also be supporting my creative efforts and helping me justify the time spent on this project. This winter alone, over 500 hours have been spent on shooting, editing and writing about snowflakes. That’s roughly full-time work for the entire winter! :)

(You can’t image the catch-up I now need to do on other projects. No rest for me yet!)
Datacide's profile photoHeike Austermann's profile photoCecil Bullard's profile photoMichelle Boast's profile photo
Will do, +jerry robin!

+Alexey Kljatov I still have hundreds of snowflakes from this winter and past years that I have not edtied, because it takes so much time. I could do another series without shooting more snowflakes! It's warmer weather that produces snowflakes like this, forming and falling within 5-6 degrees of freezing. In fact, we have some nights that are dropping to -8C and -9C this week, even though it is the second half of March. My snowflake project is done for the season, but that doesn't mean I'd pass up an opportunity to photograph more! :)
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Don Komarechka

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This water droplet photo was taken during a quick technique demonstration at a water droplet refraction workshop I recently held in Ajax, Ontario. The point was to illustrate how many images are taken when I shoot these images, in this case nearly 200 images were taken and 35 of them were used to focus-stack the finished piece. It’s very similar in construction to the image posted yesterday in a link advertising upcoming photography workshops, because it was made using the same ingredients.
Almost exactly a year after I made the first image, I put the same puzzle pieces back together to show workshop participants how to create images like this: third hand tool, Eucalyptus and a spray bottle filled with plain old water. If you put these items together in the right way, you can create a refracted image inside each droplet of the flower placed behind.
It’s a fun exercise, and it took me less than 5 minutes to set up this image. I’ve taken things up a notch in my own studio work where I use the surface of water as an additional element, or different objects providing the refraction (like a map of Earth), and I’ve got a ton of ideas in my head with techniques for how to make it more challenging and more rewarding.
In the workshops I teach on the subject ( ) everyone gets the tools and knowledge they need to create these kinds of photographs. It’s not difficult when you get right down to it, but there are many challenges along the way.
One of these challenges is alignment – you need the flower, droplet, and camera to all fall within the same linear path. In any one piece is not in alignment, you won’t see the refraction in the droplets.
Another challenge is light. I typically use flash, but a strong LED flashlight can do the trick if you’re not familiar with flash photography in a comfortable way. The flash should be hitting the flower (or any background object) more prominently than the foreground, allowing the droplets to shine as the brightest part of the image.
Magnification is always tricky, and I’ve got special equipment to get very close. If you don’t have special gear, even flipping around your DSLR’s kit lens and using it backwards can achieve remarkable definition for shots like this.
At the very least, making water droplet refraction images helps you see things differently – the most valuable skill a photographer can have.
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Bardzo piękne zdjęcie:)
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What the hell is this? It’s a technique that uses refracted light to create an abstract image. Commonly called “refractography”, there is no lens attached to my camera. This is simply focused and refracted light. There’s more to the story, however. Read on!
To create this image, I’m using a few ingredients:
- High-powered LED flashlight: The light source is a simple flashlight that I can mount to a tripod for easy positioning
- Fresnel Lens: Also commonly known as a “magnifying sheet” or a “pocket magnifier”, this is also the same technology used in “better beamer” accessories to refocus flash bursts over a much greater distance. This helps me keep the light from spreading too far off course – I need to keep the light as straight as possible, and these cost about $4
- Refractive object: In this image, I’m using a glass vase with a spiral pattern, but different objects will create different patterns, lines and shapes. This same object could create a dozen different interesting compositions! Try anything made of glass, with unique surface details providing distinctive results!
- Refocuser: Because the cheap Fresnel lens doesn’t give me completely straight light (a telecentric lens would likely do this), I use a small single-optic lens from an old Contaflex camera to create sharper results before the light hits my camera’s sensor.
- Colour: Somewhere in the mix I’ve added colour by projecting the result of birefringence into the refraction. Yep. I’m that geeky.
The result is an abstract piece of art, one which can barely be considered a photograph. It pushes the “limits”, which is why I enjoy tinkering with this sort of thing. There is also no way to create exactly the same results twice. Each attempt requires different adjustments of the variables and constant fiddling to produce unexpectedly beautiful results.
I had originally created this refractograph as a classroom demonstration with students watching as the image appeared on the camera sensor. It was a fun moment to see everyone’s eyes light up as an “image” was formed with a series of optical filters.
Fun stuff! I need to spend more time tinkering. :)
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This is wonderful, great job!
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Completely thrilled and honoured to be a big part of the current advertising campaign by Georgian College, including this TV spot that many people have seen on the air over the past week. I've always been a proud Georgian College graduate, and my education from the Advertising Program gave me the skills to be an entrepreneur - which is at the core of any successful photography business!
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Sweet!  Congrats!
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Another Frozen Bubble!
I shot quite a few of these earlier in the winter, and I’m constantly amazed by the variation you can see in a simple bubble. Snowflakes are beautiful natural formations, but I like playing a part in the creation of these things too! :) View large!
The focus was slightly off on this bubble, but I think it’s too good not to showcase here. The depth of field is so incredibly shallow and the constantly-changing subject means that focus stacking is impossible, even for me. With only a tiny slice of focus to choose from and mere seconds to find the proper alignment, the shooting process can be quite frantic.
For this bubble and for many of the others I’ve shot, I use a bubble mixture of:
6 parts water
2 parts dish soap
1 part white corn syrup or glycerine
The corn syrup / glycerine makes the solution a little thicker and more robust, allowing some of the bubbles to stay intact when they impact the ground. These bubbles all fell onto snow, which had a tendency to make them pop immediately. A smoother surface may have worked better, but I liked the out-of-focus background details that snow provided.
This soap bubble also shows some interesting crystal formations. It’s almost as if snowflakes are growing from different points on the bubble’s surface, each beginning from a different nucleation point. Just as snowflakes need something to being the crystal formation, so too does frost growing on this bubble. You can even see signs that each separate crystal is forming on a slightly different angle to the camera! Slight impurities in the bubble mixture likely caused this result, but it’s something to keep in mind next year…. Maybe add something extra to the recipe to create more nucleation points!
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You're welcome +Jane Petrtyl, best of luck! It was a fun photograph to make. :)
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Snowflake-a-Day #101
Wait, what? Aren’t I supposed to stop at 100? Yes, but there was a technicality early on in this series. It turns out that Snowflake #6 (link: ) and #7 (link: ) are actually the same crystal. Snowflake #6 is a sublimated version of #7, and depicts just how quickly a snowflake will evaporate into thin air. The two images were taken 22 minutes apart, and I only realised the impossibly similar features after each snowflake had been edited.
In an effort to create a series with 100 uniquely different images, this extra snowflake makes up for it.
This snowflake is one from March 4, 2014, which was the most “colourful” snowfall I have ever seen. Nothing this winter truly compared; even though there were plenty of vibrant crystals, they didn’t appear in the same numbers as last year. I plan on making a small poster that will include all of the colourful snowflakes from that weather system, and this was the final snowflake that I needed to edit.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the kind words and congratulations on completing this series! Now the catch-up game begins! It’ll probably be a week or so before I’m fully up to speed on too many projects that were delayed because of the snowflake season.
Oh, and Sky Crystals is still an awesome book, even though temperatures are now commonly above freezing. Consider it a souvenir of winter!
Jeff Sartain's profile photoDatacide's profile photoMacroAddict's profile photoAnne Jontes's profile photo
Awesome +Sarah Lavallee! Your books should arrive on Tuesday it seems, and I'm glad to know they'll be going to good homes. :) Thanks again!

Hah, thanks +Etienne Calame, I'd love to keep the series going to any arbitrary number, but 100 is actually more than I could handle... I nearly didn't make it! 101 was just the encore, but I couldn't push it much further. All other projects have been a success so far, with more opportunities coming up quickly! Never a dull moment over here.

Sorry that you'll be deprived of snowflakes for a few months +Datacide, but I'm sure there will be a few surprise posts along the way to keep the interest up. Thanks for following the series so closely!

Thanks +Shelly Gunderson! The turquoise colour isn't as common, so it stands out for me as well. Of course they're all unique, but these colourful crystals are in a class all by themselves. :)
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Snowflake-a-Day #99
This is about as close to a “perfect snowflake” as I think I will get this year. I love when crystals exhibit a distinct growth pattern shift, and this one does it so elegantly and with great balance. View large!
The center of this snowflake raises up at two distinct levels, with the branches beginning on a third. During the growth transition, the branches drop down to a fourth layer, and there are some indications that there are as many as 7 or 8 distinct layers in this snowflake. Can you spot all of the transitions in height? Snowflakes are certainly not two-dimensional objects!
These 3D sky-borne sculptures are constantly amazing me with their details. The base branches (let’s call them “trunks”) have many surface details that have formed on the opposite side of the ice to the camera, while some of the smaller side-branches reveal these features on the camera-facing side of the crystal. This makes for an interesting combination of low-contrast detail near the center and higher-contrast detail as the crystal grows outward. It’s a beautiful mixture!
Photographing this snowflake was not easy. Over 50 frames were used to complete this image, but many of the necessary frames were taken at significantly later times (two minutes is significant) than the first images. This means that some branches have begun to sublimate during this time, and the focus stacking techniques I use become quite challenging. Neighbouring frames do not line up properly, adding extra time to the already-lengthy editing workflow. Still, I didn’t want to leave this snowflake out of the series. The effort needed to be given!
It’s also around 4AM as I write and post this, the latest I’ve posted any day’s snowflake. This project has been extremely exhausting, but there is no way I’m giving up now, so close to the end. One more to go to hit the magic number!
If you appreciate the effort I put into this image and admire the beauty that results, I’d love for you to read Sky Crystals: Unraveling the Mysteries of Snowflakes – - the 304 page book is an excellent source of photographic beauty, a complete camera and post-processing workflow, and more interesting physics than you ever thought possible in a snowflake. With winter on the way out, what better way to celebrate? :)
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Hah +Michelle Boast, with so many to choose from it's a wonder that you were able to settle on one! Actually, my imagination is firing in some interesting ways with #100. Within the next few months I will be purchasing and experimenting with a 3D printer. That snowflake is beckoning me to be a full three-dimensional sculpture, but #99 is also a great candidate for it as well. :)
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In his circles
1,210 people
Turn knobs, press buttons, and take pictures.
  • Georgian College
    Part-time Faculty, 2010 - present
  • Don Komarechka Photography
    Owner / Photographer, 2008 - present
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
barrie, ontario - sudbury, ontario
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(705) 796-6799
(705) 796-6799
Nature & Landscape Photographer, Teacher, gadget geek. :)
  • Georgian College
    Advertising, 2007 - 2009
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