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Tips and techniques

Where the Magic Begins by Cheryl Arena Molennor

By March 24, 2014No Comments

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Text and photography by Cheryl Arena Molennor

Another rainy night rolls into the early morning hours, and I anticipate the end of the storm as the sunlight begins to break through the clouds. It is about 7:30am and the first glimpse of light beams through the thick blanket above. As it reaches ground level, the light reflects off of the colorful flowers in my garden, creating the most beautiful sparkling bed of jewels. Each time this happens, I am inspired to grab my macro lens and my tripod and head outdoors for a photo shoot.

I have always been fascinated by the magical images that can be created with water drops, reflections and refractions, so a few years ago I began experimenting with different ways of capturing this beauty in my garden or even in my home. The images below demonstrate a few of the techniques that I use for this type of macro photography:

The 7up Technique: For this image I filled a very clean glass with 7up (you can also use plain seltzer water). Then I inserted the pink gerbera flower in it while the bubbles were still very fizzy, and used a tool called the McClamp to hold the flower in place. After a few minutes the bubbles start to settle on the flower. I highly recommend using manual focus for this technique and it is also helpful to use a tripod and cable release to prevent any camera shake. 

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Image made using the 7up technique.


Spray Bottle: This image was captured after a rainstorm, but I also used a spray bottle full of water to create more drops of water on the palm leaves. I often like to get the subject area very wet because it can create nice bokeh with a shallow depth-of-field. I think this makes for very abstract and dreamy effects. I have also tried using glycerin instead of water to spray the flowers. It works well and the drops don’t evaporate like the water does, but it can be a bit messy. It is also more difficult to spray a nice fine mist because the glycerin is thicker than water.

Image made using the spray bottle technique.

Image made using the spray bottle technique.


Vegetable Oil: This last technique involves using simple vegetable oil mixed with water in a clear glass bowl with a flat bottom. For these last images, I placed some funky fabric under the bowl and filled the bowl with the oil/water mixture. Placing my camera above and parallel to the open bowl, I then swirl the water and focus in on the images appearing in the circles of water and oil. I use a faster shutter speed because of the fast movement of the oil and water mixture. It is also fun to experiment with depth-of-field because I find that a shallow depth-of-field gives a three-dimensional look to the images. After getting a few frames you can change out the fabric for another creative series.

Image made using vegetable oil technique.

Image made using vegetable oil technique.

I hope you enjoy experimenting with these techniques and that you see creative possibilities in the next rainy day. To see more of my work, please visit: