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Don Komarechka
1,335,757 followers -
Nature & Landscape Photographer, Teacher, gadget geek. :)
Nature & Landscape Photographer, Teacher, gadget geek. :)

1,335,757 followers
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Forbidden Treasure
This image… is not ordinary. It’s far from it. View it large and read the description if you have a moment to enjoy this jumping spider stalking prey on this orchid shot in ultraviolet fluorescence.

First off, I need to state that this is a staged image. I found the spider in my car while heading home from the hardware store (broke a shovel trying to remove a stump), and trapped it under a bottle cap. Sliding a piece of paper underneath for easy transport, I put the creature in a jar for a little adventure. We have a small aphid infestation on some of our seedlings and I’ve just let this little creature go to have a feast.

The Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid was found in our gardens – we have both the yellow and pink varieties here, with thanks to the previous home owner for sourcing them and planting them in our yard – such a wonderful surprise to see these beauties! And to further the surprise, they glow in UV light. The stem and leaves glow a deep red, while the flower itself is a light yellow. I almost never cut one of the orchids, but this captive spider made an exception. Shot in studio, one of my classroom tables is the dark blue background you see.

Jumping spiders are fast and uncooperative creatures; I’ve learned this from previous interactions, so I knew that I needed to have everything set beforehand, perfect exposure, focus and framing, before adding in the spider. I cooled him down a little in the freezer, paying very specific attention to timing. I wanted this little guy to be sluggish enough to be placed on the flower and soon became quite active. I guided him into this position with a strip of cardboard, and he (or she?) stayed posed for about a second or two. The pose is exactly what I was hoping for, to create a fantasy narrative: Peering into the negative space, waiting for an insect to arrive at the pot of gold to enjoy the treasure, then to be ambushed.

I feel an absolute need to share a visible-light version of this image as well, so that you can see the difference between UV and “ordinary” light: http://donkom.ca/bts/DKP_9631.jpg - there is such a shift in colour, light and details that I appreciate as an explorer of the natural world. The flower behaves very interestingly, and the spider’s eyes glow brightly. Many insects have parts that fluoresce, and I had some previous hints that eyes would glow as well. This little spider didn’t disappoint!

I don’t stage things this heavily very often. This was a highly orchestrated shot that took a few hours to produce, and dealing with the personality of a jumping spider isn’t always easy. I make no claims that this is a “natural” image, though I assume such a spider would find this vantage point to be quite beneficial. Even still, this alternate reality is a fascinating one, and I’m glad I was able to capture it.

(If anyone is curious and sceptical of this image, I’d be happy to share with you the RAW file. The colours and brightness have been enhanced slightly, and some dust has been removed, but the image is a true depiction of what was in front of the camera. That’s the magic of it!)

Curious to see our award-winning gardens in person? I host full-day macro photography workshops here, they’ll be well worth your time! Register here, with dates still available in July and August: http://www.donkom.ca/workshops/

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Ultraviolet Attraction
This is a fun study of a Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) in different spectrums of light: Visible light in the middle, infrared to the right, and ultraviolet to the left.

Most foliage and flowers reflect infrared light evenly, regardless of what colour they reflect in the visible spectrum. This makes for a rather uninteresting image on its own, but it’s still interesting to see the effect, especially when compared to what happens in the ultraviolet spectrum.

Insects can see ultraviolet light, and some flowers take advantage of this by creating patterns to attract pollinators. In the case of the marsh marigold, the outer half of each petal reflects UV light while the inner portion of the flower absorbs it, creating a pattern that will catch the attention of a passing bee. You might also notice a few extra specks of brightness near the center, which is a little difficult to identify. My best guess is that this is pollen from another flower that reflects UV light, but it could just be another part of the flower’s anatomy to draw insects in.

Not all flowers have patterns this dramatic. Some flowers have no pattern at all, some are very reflective and others absorb UV light and appear black. I walked around my garden with my ultraviolet camera and took an inventory of some interesting flowers, more of which I’ll be posting soon.

It’s important to note what kind of camera gear is used here. I’ve modified a Canon 1DX for “full spectrum” photography so that it can detect ultraviolet and infrared light as well as the visible spectrum, and I’ve placed filters in front of the lens to only allow UV light through. It’s tricky to get good, pure UV light, as even 1% of infrared light will destroy the results. I’m using a combination of two filters to get good quality results: an X-Nite 330C and an X-Nite BP1. The BP1 is a bandpass filter required to cut out all non-UV light, and the pair work well together.

Natural sunlight is workable for these images, but I also have some flashes designed to emit a full spectrum of light in studio, where these images were taken. These are the same flashes I use for UV fluorescence photography, which is an entirely different thing.

This is an ultraviolet image, collecting and recording ultraviolet light. Other fluorescing flower images I’ve posted are collecting and recording visible light with a regular unmodified camera, but using pure UV light hitting the flower to begin with, which would be completely invisible to the camera if it didn’t fluoresce and make the flower glow. Each of these areas of photography are fun to explore, but there is a certain barrier in terms of equipment.

There really is a universe at our feet just waiting to be explored!
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Two to Tango
This was such a fun water droplet refraction image to make, partly because it was done with the GH5 and partly because it was done in Bulgaria near the Black Sea. Two dandelion seeds dancing in the light of a poppy – read on!

While walking through a row of flower shops in Varna, Bulgaria, I spotted one solitary poppy among an array of daisies and roses. It was a huge flower, and I knew it would work well for a refraction photograph. Typically I choose daisy-like flowers with flat symmetrical petals, but poppies are close enough in design to make the same magic. Along the streets of Varna you’d had a hard time missing the dandelions, so it was easy to pick up a seed head and bring it back to our apartment to set up the shot.

Aside: for those of you that don’t know, my wife is originally from Bulgaria and we visit every year or two. It’s an incredibly beautiful country with multiple mountain ranges and a coastline, located in Eastern Europe north of Greece and Turkey. If you’re looking for an interesting travel destination, this is it!

The staging of the shot is fairly simple, but all of the puzzle pieces need to fall in just the right place. I used my Canon MR-14EX II ringlite in manual mode attached to a Panasonic GH5, though the ring was not fixed to the lens. The only way you can successfully use a ring flash for droplet refractions is to push the ring forward enough that it doesn’t cast any light on the droplets – effectively, the seeds are placed inside the center of the ring. If the flash was properly mounted to the lens, the light from the flash would hit the droplets first and flower second, resulting in nasty catch-lights in the droplets and an underwhelming refraction effect.

I’m loving the GH5 and the whole “premium micro four thirds” camera idea. In the case of macro photography, the 2X crop factor really works to your benefit to increase the magnification you’re able to achieve without any extras. No extension tubes required, just a macro lens to get this close – and I could have gotten closer! The Leica 45mm Macro from Panasonic is a gem… I’m going to be sad to give this back at the end of the month. Rapid-fire shooting is essential to get focus through the proper “slice” of the subject, as I physically move the camera forward and back to shift focus on this scale. The resulting images could have easily been focus stacked, but I felt that a single frame captured enough of the magic.

Shooting at F/8 gave me enough foreground focus to work with, while still presenting the background (the center of the poppy) out of focus. The balance here is always a bit tricky to establish, as the size of the flower (and inherently how far away from the focal plane it is) changes every time. There was about 10 minutes of tinkering in total done with camera settings, subject and light placement, and subject positioning.

The hardest part about this image was getting one dandelion seed to stay intertwined with the other. It’s easy when they’re dry, but as the droplets accumulate the seed gets heavier and falls off. Only one of the seeds is clamped in place! The setup needed to be re-staged four times before a supportive entanglement was found.

If you’d like to try and make an image like this, I teach photography workshops on exactly this subject here in my studio! The next workshop date is June 10th: http://www.donkom.ca/product/macro-photography-workshops/
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Glowing Hearts (plus initial thoughts on the GH5)
In what is becoming a spring/summer series for me, this is a photograph of Bleeding Hearts shot in ultraviolet light and the camera capturing the fluorescence that results. Regular camera + pure UV light can create magic!

This shot was also made on the new Panasonic GH5. I’ve been evaluating the camera over the past couple of weeks and while I don’t have a full review, it has exceeded expectations in many ways. For a high ISO image (3200) on a MFT sensor I expected more trouble, and with an extreme scenario like UVIVF (ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence) it handled itself well. This image is uncropped, but obviously edited.

For those that don’t know my “usual” gear, it’s a Canon 1DX mark II and a wonderful assortment of lenses, flashes, and accessories to push photographic limits. The Panasonic GH5 is proving to be a capable replacement for this in some ways, with the benefits of a smaller size making up for other minor shortcomings for the work I’m currently doing. In the coming weeks I’ll be shooting a few video projects with this, but as a stills camera I’m not in the least disappointed.

I was surprised when I saw Bleeding Hearts out so early in my gardens (this image was taken at the end of April), and needed to get a shot of them before the hearts opened up – I figured this would make for a cleaner image overall for this purpose. It was fascinating to see that different parts of the flower fluoresced back to the camera at a different frequency. Many flowers will fluoresce into the blues and purples like this giving a characteristic look, but my experiments with daffodils revealed yellow-green fluorescence.

I suppose it makes sense that the most common fluorescence would be in the purple-blue hues. I read a study that referenced nitrogen content in “resilin”, a rubbery/elastic compound commonly found in insects. Since plants are often fueled by nitrogen, could it contribute to these glowing colours in some way? The question is more complex than one single element can explain, but at least it’s a place to start.

From a processing standpoint, there was one surprise: the noise reduction algorithms in Lightroom and Photoshop are terrible. Likely due to the unusual colour palette and gamut of these images, the noise reduction slider actually added a ton of noise in certain areas of the image. I did a double-take on this, and even restarted to Photoshop thinking it was some sort of glitch… but saturated purple-blues are tough to handle with most edits. Brightening them shifts them too far to purple and requires a hue shift back, contrast dramatically increases saturation which isn’t expected, and noise reduction is just backwards. This is not fault of the camera gear used, but the processing “engine” not properly handling this fringe-case of an image. Printing these photos becomes an even more epic challenge!

The adventure continues… there is much to discover here!

(If you’re curious to experiment with these kinds of techniques as well, I can answer any questions you have. I’d also be happy to show you how it’s done in a one-on-one workshop in my studio. If you’re interested, let me know! I also have group macro workshops available here: http://www.donkom.ca/workshops/ )

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Want to get a glimpse into my vintage camera collection? Check out this conversation about film photography and some of the interesting tools that can still be relevant today!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O2ihKjgLaw

This was a fun conversation with +Bob Wild of +Who Said Photography. We recorded a number of videos, I may share more of them in this space if there is any interest.

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Dancing in Moonlight
While this image contains no dancing or moonlight, I thought it was an appropriate title for the visual, which feels just as magical. You’re seeing a Christmas Rose (a member of the buttercup family of flowers) illuminated by ultraviolet light, speckled with fluorescing powder around the scene for the shapes / bokeh you see in the foreground and background.

The object in the upper left corner is the ultraviolet flash which is providing all the light for the scene. I had images with it placed farther away, but I felt it helped build a connection to the flower, even with the odd-shaped flare radiating through the center of the frame. The flower and the light weren’t the more curious part of this image, however. That falls to the choice of lens!

This photograph was shot with the Canon 15mm fisheye lens. I attached a 12mm extension tube to it, which shifted the focus so severely inward that what would normally be “infinity” is not touching the front element of the lens. Here’s a behind-the-scenes image that shows the closeness of the flower and optics – they are smushed up together. A black tablecloth is placed behind and I sprinkled a bit of UV-fluorescing powder on it, some of which ended up on the flower and some ended up on the lens itself as well as the background. This creates all the shapes you see in the frame.

These shapes are largely pentagonal because the Canon 15mm fisheye has five aperture blades, so the resulting bokeh has five sides. Some of these shapes are distorted around the edges, probably due to a combination of the powder being on the lens and being close to the edge of the frame.

The pollen of this flower glows so very beautifully under UV light, I need to make more images of it. This was just an initial artistic experiment that went into so strange directions! Initially, I wanted the out of focus dots to be stars, photographed against the night sky. When I tested the possibilities, the stars didn’t perform well enough at this focus setting, producing a bland night sky. The light points needed to be closer, and a few hours of experimentation resulted in the image we have here.

It’s not perfect, but I think it might be one of the most magic “macro fisheye” images created. For that, I’m very happy with the results!
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Glowing Blooms
This image of Scilla flowers (Scilla siberica) is shot with UV fluorescence: the subject is covered in ultraviolet light but the camera only detects visible light reflecting off the surface. If the UV light is transformed through fluorescence into light we can see and the camera can capture, we get an image!

While many flowers don’t directly reflect UV light, that doesn’t mean they absorb it entirely. Pollen, for example, is a common element in many flower species that will fluoresce brighter than the rest of the flower. Some flowers don’t fluoresce at all. These scillas glowed moderately under ultraviolet light, but the amount of UV light is staggering to get anything interesting out of these subjects.

I have three flashes modified for pure UV photography, and they are all at point-blank range firing at full power. Even still, I need an ISO of 3200 to get enough light coming back to the camera with enough depth to get most of the subject in focus. I believe the aperture was set to around F/11 or so, but even still – this would be a blinding amount of light from these flashes in the visible spectrum.

While I wait for a few key pieces of gear to full explore “pure” ultraviolet photography, this hand-me-down fluoresced UV light is a fun subject to explore. I’ve already discovered another early bloomer in the garden that will produce a stunning image, I just need to wait a few more days for the pollen to burst out from the blooms. This makes me wonder, why does pollen glow under UV light? A quick bit of research turned up dozen of scientific papers that are way over my head for the time being… there is much to learn!

Regardless of “why”, I’m sure we can agree that the results are a great example of the beauty we can see when we alter our reality slightly. You won’t find a source of pure UV-only light in nature, but this is what it can create when reflecting off a flower. Magic! 
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Soaking up the Sun

This image represents the beginning of a fun adventure I’ll be on through the summer months: photographing flowers in ultraviolet. While it doesn’t look like much at first glance, there’s a lot of interesting things going on here, both in terms of subject and technology. If you’re curious, read on!

First, taking pictures in exclusively ultraviolet light is difficult at best. Filtering out all visible light and especially all infrared light can be tricky, and the camera sensor needs to be modified for full-spectrum or UV-only photography to make this work. In either scenario, you’ll still need a combination of two filters in front of the lens: an X-Nite 330C and an X-Nite BP1. The combination of these two filters work to remove all traces of visible and IR light from the image, and with a modified camera you can capture the remaining UV light that the sensor is able to detect.

In natural setting the exposures are long. In direct sunlight, my exposure settings were F/10, ISO 2000, 2 seconds. This is partly due to the fact that there is less UV light than visible light, standard lenses don’t transmit all UV light, and the sensor isn’t very sensitive to UV light unless the colour filter array is removed. This makes the subject less approachable to most photographers, and it’s hard to find distinctive subjects in UV compared to infrared photography.

These are vibrantly purple crocuses growing in my lawn, surrounded by snow after our last (and final!) snowfall. This means the flowers reflect a lot of purple and violet light, but when you step just a short distance down the spectrum into ultraviolet, they absorb it all and appear black in the process. Many flowers absorb all UV light, but some reflect it in specific patterns to attract insects. Daisies, for example, reflect all visible light and appear white, but absorb all ultraviolet light to appear black in an ultraviolet image. Why? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I know that knowledge will cross my path as I explore ultraviolet flower photography through the warmer months.

Snow was the perfect backdrop for this image to show the amount of UV light naturally reflecting in the scene, and I’m in the process of obtaining a backdrop that can function the same way in all scenarios. The series of images will be somewhat documentary, but the exploration into this “unknown” area of photography is exciting. What wonders will the ultraviolet world bring? You’ll soon find out! I just need more flowers in bloom to continue the exploration!

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Hear the story behind one of my best water droplet images to date:
http://www.skipcohenuniversity.com/scu-blog/why-with-don-komarechka

I had a great interview with +Skip Cohen about my image "Jewels of Summer", my favourite water droplet image to date. If you want to know what sort of effort goes into the creation of an image like this - in camera - you should absolutely give it a listen.

You would do well to browse around Skip Cohen University, for some amazing interviews, podcasts, and educational inspiration. My little interview is just the tip of the iceberg!

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Embrace Spring with a Water Droplet Refraction Workshop!
Multiple dates available, held in Barrie, ON for CAD$145: http://www.donkom.ca/product/macro-photography-workshops/

(In US Dollars, that's roughly $108)

I made this image this evening in preparation for a water droplet refraction workshop tomorrow afternoon on the 25th. Using some fairly simple ingredients including a dandelion seed, spray bottle and Gerbera Daisy, something magical happens. You need to put the puzzle pieces together in the right way, and that’s what the workshop is designed around. You even get an essential piece of equipment to take home with you at the end of the workshop: a third hand tool. Very hard to do this kind of work without one!

This image was shot with an old (circa 1978) Canon 35mm F/2.8 macrophoto lens attached to an equally-vintage set of bellows adapted to my modern DSLR. The magnifications these old lenses can achieve is fantastic – this image isn’t cropped at all! Simple equipment can yield great results if you know how the puzzle pieces fit together.

I have boxes of various wildflower seeds that I collect in the fall and they really work well for refractions because they made tons of spherical water droplets. Bluegrass and eucalyptus also work well, so do spider webs and many other things!

Welcome to the world of abstract photography. It doesn’t really matter that it’s a Gerbera Daisy seen through a Dandelion seed, it’s an exploration of lines and shapes. If I used focus stacking techniques maybe you’d see more in of the droplets in focus, but for illustration purposes this is a single shot out of camera with editing to enhance contrast and colour.

Once you understand the fundamentals of the technique, you’re limited only by your creative ideas for how to apply it! I’ve got macro equipment, flashes, flashlights, etc. here in studio to help those that think they might be missing a key piece of gear. Even if you don’t have a macro lens I can show you how to make an image like this!

Ask anyone who has attended these workshops from me and they’ll say they had a great time and learned a lot! http://www.donkom.ca/product/macro-photography-workshops/
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