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Don Komarechka
Nature & Landscape Photographer, Teacher, gadget geek. :)
Nature & Landscape Photographer, Teacher, gadget geek. :)


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Announcing the eBook version of Sky Crystals, THE resource for photographing and studying snowflakes!

For the first time ever, Sky Crystals is introduced as a digital download and at a special sale price of $14.99. If you’ve ever wanted to reveal the magic of winter macro photography with your camera, this 304-page book reveals every technique I use for photographing snowflakes. No secrets held back!

As a FREE BONUS, you’ll also get a water droplet refraction primer to download, showing you how to turn water droplets into tiny lenses and reveal the hidden beauty of simple physics. If you have the equipment for snowflake photography, you’ve got almost everything you need for this additional photographic adventure!

The culmination of years of photography and study of snowflakes, this 304-page hardcover book will detail the science, photography and techniques, and even delve into why we find snowflakes beautiful. I keep the explanations easy to understand and graphic, but the science is fascinating and there are still many unanswered questions.

Considering this eBook is only one-third the cost of the hardcover version, this is an exceptional deal. Traveling some place remote with a good chance of snow? Load this PDF into iBooks / Google Play Books and keep it with you always. Originally written around a two-page spread design, you’ll be given links to download a single-page or spread-page layout, whichever works best for you.

Why Snowflakes?
Snowflakes: These tiny creations of winter have been a curiosity during most childhoods spent in Canada. As I grew up, I became less and less interested in these “trivial” curiosities, and only recently reconnected with them through the lens of my camera. As with most macro subjects, when photographing snowflakes there are many “what the heck is that?” moments as something mysterious is captured, and that childhood curiosity is reborn.

Using a steady hand, an old mitten, and freshly falling snow, you can produce an image worthy of sparking that childhood wonder in even the most jaded onlookers. Some people don’t believe my images are real, and that’s when I know I’ve created something worth talking about. Of course, some people simply think I’m crazy watching me take pictures of an old mitten in a snow storm.

Standing in frigid temperatures a meter away from comfort and warmth can be a daunting task. Using macro equipment that gives you incredibly little focus, it can be hard to even find a snowflake in the viewfinder. Freezing hands and shivering arms can make the situation worse. However, once you’ve got your first snowflake, you’ll smile at every snowfall from then on. But until you succeed, people will think you’re crazy for trying.

Forecasts predict an abundance of snow this year – I know I’ll be shooting every single snowfall. How about you?
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Photo Geek Weekly Episode 46 is out!

On this episode of Photo Geek Weekly, +Brian Matiash joins the conversation to discuss the latest dramatic impact of computational photography in the form of Google's Night Sight, the potential mishaps with 500px in UI design, firmware updates and why they matter, rounding out the discussion with a law suit facing Adobe. A very thoughtful discussion awaits you!
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Photo Geek Weekly Episode 45 is out!

On this episode of Photo Geek Weekly, Steve Brazill returns for the anniversary episode! We chat about cautiously optimistic cinema gear, the continued evolution of Flickr, the pressures of street photography and the fate of small sensor cameras. A lot crammed into a single episode, and it's well worth the listen!
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Blooming Reverie

The flowers from succulents, when photographed in ultraviolet light, become magical. Another one of my South African succulents has decided to bloom for the first time since planting them last year, and the results? Well worth the wait.

Probably another variation on Polyxena ensifolia, this one with light pink/purple petals and white stalks, erupting in a cascade of blooms. The base of some flowers – including many irises – can glow green, but the long tubes of emerald and aquamarine on these exotic flowers really impresses. For anyone that has experimented in this kind of photography, you quickly realize that it’s a constant hunt for subjects that fluoresce in beautiful and interesting ways.

If you haven’t thought about exploring this kind of photography before, I wrote a nice article on PetaPixel about it: - the hardest part is getting the two filters to put over a modified flash. Thankfully, this image was shot with a commercially available UV light system designed exactly for this type of photography. Shot with an Adaptalux Control Pod 2.0 and two ultraviolet lighting arms that I’m testing, it’s much more accessible!

You can check out the system here: . The lights don’t output as much as my custom built flashes, but with the “boost” feature on the new control pods they work just fine. Might have to get more of these UV arms, but even with two of them I can shoot at ISO 200 and F/20 with a 60-second exposure. Shot on my favourite macro setup, the Lumix GX9 and Leica 45mm F/2.8 macro lens, just a single frame was needed. Keep in mind that this is shot in complete darkness other than the UV lighting arms!

Images like this get pushed a lot in post-processing, though not to falsify anything. These plants had been growing in my house, and were covered with a thin layer of dust. Dust fluoresces bright blue, and thankfully a lot of it can be removed with a bulb blower; some always remains, so I get friendly with my cloning and healing tools. If I want to brighten or darken part of the image, I almost always do this on a local level – those greens and blues can so easily become over-exposed even if all the data is in the RAW file. I’ve found ON1 Photo RAW to handle highlights better than Photoshop, but I still like manual control over how the light shapes the image.

Oh, and where do you I get these bulbs? sells a bunch of different varieties! I think I might have to order more. :)
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Photo Geek Weekly Episode 44 is out!

On this episode of Photo Geek Weekly, Don is joined by the delightfully wise +Andy Ihnatko to discuss photo industry trends towards instant gratification with little or no editing, along with the next steps for companies like Canon, Yongnuo, and even RED. Finally our late-breaking discussion on the first round of “improvements” to Flickr and what that means for its users.
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Fountain of Fluorescence

This was a fun surprise! Last year I had purchased a number of South African succulents based on a tip that they might fluoresce nicely. I placed them all in terracotta pots, and one blossomed that year – the results were spectacular…. But that was it. Just one. Looks like some of the other bulbs have matured to a flowering age now – and I have this to show for it.

Polyxeno ensifolia ‘white’. A tiny little white flower that you can see in this behind-the-scenes photo: ( ) . This plant produces just one flower, and it only lasts a few days – I almost missed it! For a simple white flower, it becomes something otherworldly when hit with pure ultraviolet light.

The light source for this image is different from my regular gear, as I search for easy ways for photographers to dive into this UV fluorescence realm. This was shot with an Adaptalux UV outfit – one of their new Control Box 2.0 units that allows for a significant boost in output along with two UV arms (you can find out more about it here: ). One of the UV arms I have was a prototype I had tested when they were originally designing them, and the full production UV lighting arms are much better.

Exposure time for this image is ISO 200, F/14 and 60 seconds. I wanted to get everything in focus in a single shot, and for the most part I accomplished that goal. A low ISO meant that I had to shoot for a very lengthy time, but if I had more UV lighting arms I could probably cut that down as well. Shot with the Lumix GX9 and the Leica 45mm macro lens, my favourite combination of gear for images like this.

It amazes me how diverse the colour palette of a white flower can become when illuminated through fluorescence. The camera and lens are not modified in any way to get these results – it’s just the light source that does the trick. The other South African succulent I photographed also had the glowing green center, as do irises and a few other flowers. The green against the neighbouring reds and blues form a beautiful explosion of colour, and the pistil of the flower shooting up like a fountain offsets the balance and allows for negative space. The right flower at the right time!

I’ll be keeping an eye on the other succulents to see if more decide to bloom. If this is any indication, we’re in for a light show!

(Also, if you want to learn more about my UV fluorescence work, I had written a PetaPixel article a while back that sums it up nicely: )
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Photo Geek Weekly Episode 43 is out!

On this episode of Photo Geek Weekly, +Martin Bailey joins Don for a discussion about rangefinders – good and bad – as well as camera teardowns, colour science and VERY temporary lenses you make yourself. Enjoy the photo geekery!
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Can I ask a favour of you?

Check out this article I wrote on 3D macro photography, & PLEASE try to see it in 3D by crossing your eyes!

(if you can't cross your eyes but have a 3D viewer like Google Cardboard there is a link to proper files for that too)
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DPReview TV: Simple techniques for great macro photography with Don Komarechka

This was so much fun – want to see how I come up with ideas in the field and stage things in studio for great macro images? Watch this 12 minute video.

Chris Niccolls and +Jordan Drake were fantastic to work with, and I’m thrilled to be featured in a technique-oriented episode of DPReview TV. Rarely do I ever see YouTube comments so positive, so thanks to everyone who has already seen it.

I’m certain you’ll enjoy it, even with the rather juvenile cold open. :)
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Rhodope Sunrise
High in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria is the perfect place to watch a sunrise. Below is the small village of Yagodina and behind me is a lookout called “Orlovo Oko” (Eagle’s Eye). This isn’t an easy place to get to, however.

The road to Yagodina is a little scary. Being a mountain road, there is a sheer cliff right next to the road on your left, and no extra space on your right. The road is only one lane for BOTH directions of traffic, and there are many blind turns. On such turns, there are curved mirrors so that you can see ongoing traffic and negotiate who will back up into a little alcove in the cliff to let the other pass. Sometimes there are guard rails, sometimes there aren’t.

Yagodina itself is a beautiful village, with a massive cave system that brings tourists to the area. “Orlovo Oko” was added a few years ago as an additional attraction, and you can hire a vehicle to take you through some hard-to-navigate trails to the top. You could also walk the trail, but there’s no way we’d get to the top for sunrise.

This photo was taken with my favourite “small” camera, the Lumix GX9 with one of the tiniest lenses I’ve used, the Lumix G 12-32mm kit lens. I used that lens extensively on my recent travels and it didn’t let me down – and you can get a new white-box version on eBay for around $150. Many people get the lens with a new camera purchase and don’t have a use for it, and I think it’s a great little lens.

This is not an HDR image, which I would normally prepare myself for when shooting into the sun. Actually, I did bracket my images but found that I only needed a single frame for the effect that I wanted: darkness in some of the shadow areas to help define the image, and no blown-out highlights (aside from the sun itself which never bothers me). At ISO 200 the GX9 really has a superb output, and 12mm is wide enough for me to capture the vastness of the landscape without taking too much in, a problem with a lot of landscape work I see online.

An image like this doesn’t arrive out of camera as such – I spend a lot of time sculpting the light. Everything from simple dodging and burning and cloning away small pieces of clutter, to structural enhancements and colour correction where required. It’s important to know that almost all of the edits done to this image are local – a few basic global adjustments to start, and then I narrow my focus to one region of the image and decide how to best handle those details. Tools of choice bounce between Photoshop and ON1 Photo RAW which I find myself using more and more, and the new features in the 2019 version will potentially see me abandon Lightroom entirely – plus focus stacking!

Even with software becoming more and more efficient, I love to lose myself in an edit session. Probably about two hours spent on this image in total to allow my eyes to wander around the scene and see it the same way I remember that morning. No drastic changes, but a lot of little ones.

ALSO! For those who follow me on Google+ and want to keep up with my work on other platforms as this one will disappear next year, here's where you can find me:

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