Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Macro (Native Milkweed)

10 November 2014


2. Native Milkweed Seedpods, Seeds and Silky Threads; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Native Milkweed Seedpods and Silky Threads; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Native Milkweed Seedpods, Seeds and Silky Threads; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Native Milkweed Seedpods, Seeds and Silky Threads; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Macro photography is naturally arduous at best. And it becomes an even greater task with a Smartphone. Frequently, it can take more than one photo shoot to retrieve a few images that pass my scrutiny for a decent shot to exhibit on my blog.

On the occasion of a macro shoot, I am reminded that close-up photography lends itself to a number of specific tips. In the past I’ve mentioned the importance of ignoring the zoom feature, and moving as near to your subject without the image becoming out of focus. Another major consideration is lighting, especially natural light. The least obvious one to mention is knowing your subject.

Macro photography reveals hidden details; often it renders the usual extraordinary. Mostly, the photograph is a response to the relationship between subject and the photographer’s interpretation of it. The final image should demonstrate that combination.

Today is another macro challenge, and I struggled to get images that satisfy. Photography can never be coerced. It takes an enormous amount of patience and perseverance. To translate nature (or any subject) into a frozen frame is a constant source of hard work. Still I return to the same thought: I must stay on task, calm my spirit, focus and refocus.

Macro photography requires latitude and precision. Unless one aims for a more nuanced image–a little blur, a little clarity, a little detail, a little surprise, the photo shoot needs a steady hand or tripod. What is selected often is a tiny fragment of the subject.

This past week I remained restless. My goal was to present the milkweed (Asclepias spp) pod, its seeds and silky threads in a new way. Fortunately, my garden was salt-and-peppered with the remains of the summer crop. Seeds are flying in strong autumn winds, searching for a winter resting place.

Eventually, I hoped to rescue my dream, and unfold images through a silent tribute to the monarch butterfly: the renewal of the milkweed plant via seeds and their airborne dispersal is a remarkable story of hope and survival. Milkweed is a critical and essential element that sustains the monarch’s life cycle.

The monarch’s narrative of depleting populations has been prevalent in our country. The response has been to create a number of organizations to alert the public. Monarch Joint Venture is one such organization. Their mission is: “Recognizing that North American monarch (Danaus plexippus) conservation is a responsibility of Mexico, Canada and the United States, as identified in the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, this Joint Venture will work throughout the U.S. to conserve and protect monarch populations and their migratory phenomena by implementing science-based habitat conservation and restoration measures in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. This goal will be achieved through a combination of habitat conservation, enhancement and restoration, education, and research and monitoring.” Read about them here.

I urge you to plant native annual and perennial milkweed. In my small center of the universe, I saw two monarchs this past summer. It breaks my heart, and I am encouraged by others who sighted many. I’m happy to do my part.

In the Lens section are two images that show the milkweed’s end-of-the-season unusual attributes. They are presented to honor this plant’s role in the life cycle of one of nature’s most fascinating creatures.

Tip of the Week:

Recently, I discovered the macro feature on Camera+. I’m becoming more and more familiar with this app’s offerings. Its stabilization feature and macro mode encourage me to use it.

I must dig deeply inside each app to discover its sweet spots. When I find one that works, I tend to use it more and more. When I learn another aspect of an app’s features, I find myself deferring to it on each photo shoot.

You can read more about Camera+ at the App Store. It’s 99 cents and worth the investment. It’s compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Click here to read about it.

From the App Store about Camera+:                                                                                               “The Clarity filter is iPhone photography’s secret                                                                     sauce—it adds pro-camera crispness to almost any                                                                 shot.”

View other entries for this week’s challenge:


If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature.

2nd Monday: Macro.

3rd Monday: Black and White.

4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

This entry was posted in Macro Photography, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Macro (Native Milkweed)

  1. We are finding that here in New Zealand we have fewer Monarch butterfiles too and have been asked to plant swan plants – another milkweed plant here. Your photos are stunning. Especially the second one. 😀

  2. Fantastic especially the second spilling out the seeds.

  3. restlessjo says:

    I’m not very familiar with milkweed, Sally, and had to look at your About page to see where you were feeling the absence of Monarchs. I like the first of the two images simply because it’s interesting and I had no idea what it was. It’s always a learning process coming here. 🙂
    I have just acquired a Smartphone, already proving to be much too clever for me, but I’m hoping to play with the camera and Instagram when I’m a bit more used.

  4. The first-the composition, the intrigue. Both are beautiful:)

  5. lavande touch says:

    Omg this is so cool😍

  6. Maria F. says:

    I like both of them, I still have not tried this new camera out, but I’ll be getting this Camera+ app. I don’t think the proprietary camera is very intuitive.

  7. Both are fascinating photographs, especially against the dark backdrop Sally. The texture stands out so well. Here is my entry for this week 🙂

  8. Su Leslie says:

    These are stunning shots Sally.I particularly like the second; I can almost feel the silken threads and the prickliness of the kernel. Here is my (still sculpture-focused) contribution. Cheers, Su.

  9. thirdeyemom says:

    Sally I think these photos are fabulous and I adore the second shot. You did achieve your goal! How many times did you try capturing the shot you used? Did you move the milkweed onto a dark table? It is exquisite and I really love your pens part on the threat to monarchs . I know you and I are on the same page about the threats if global warming and humans Impact on Mother Nature and her creatures.

    • Nicole, we are companions in our convictions about the health of the planet. It’s on my mind every day, and I do my own advocacy as a backyard habitat steward. I did three photo shoots, and then changed my strategy. Collected the seedpods and set up a composition with a black background. I’m pleased that you enjoyed them. The milkweed is like a symbol of our environmental problems, and humanity’s arrogance and interference with Mother Nature. See you soon. Thanks so much.

      • thirdeyemom says:

        Love this Sally!!! I also like how you are combining your advocacy in your photography and posts. It is helping raise awareness. Yes it drives me mad that more is not being done. Humanity’s arrogance indeed! Heartbreaking but we’ve got to keep fighting for what we believe in. thanks for inspiring me as always! 🙂

      • You’ve touched my heartstrings. Thanks so much.

  10. Oh, my goodness. I haven’t thought of milkweed pods in forever. This brings back some happy childhood memories opening them up and setting the “fairy” seeds free! Love it!
    Here is my contribution for macro:

  11. It’s amazing that today’s cell phone can capture such excellent macro images. Only a few years ago it required special equipment and more technical knowledge than most were prepared to obtain. This images are beautiful. In particular I love the second one with the seeds pouring out of the bud.

    • Otto, it’s truly a feat of modern technology. I’ve had the iPhone 6 for a few weeks, and still experimenting. It certainly does surpass my iPhone 4s in a number of features. I’m slowly becoming enamored with it. I appreciate your comment, and welcome back. Thanks so much.

  12. Sally I posted this for weekly photo challenge on my other site but thinks it fits for Macro and I just wanted folks feedback
    Carol Carlisle

  13. Wow, Sally, what spectacular images you’ve made! The macro “lens” in Camera+ seems like a great find. Kudos to you for discovering and sharing. The second image is divine.

  14. Tina Schell says:

    We are fortunate to be a monarch stopover point here on Kiawah as these beautiful creatures are seen all over our island. Their multi-generational journeys are incredible. A lovely post to help their struggle, Sally.

  15. Oh have mercy. You brought back great memories as a child opening these and having the milkweed fly through the air.

  16. LavendarLadi says:

    I like the shape.. the flow of the first photo.

  17. Ulli says:

    Dear Sally, I like both photos on their own, great shots! thanks, Ulli.

  18. suej says:

    Hi Sally, I’ve come late to seeing this post…. Love the second image because of the rich colour, beautiful detail and the light on those silky threads. Also, the background is consistently dark – in the first one, the light area in the background detracts from the power of the image. Great post!

  19. Fantastic images, Sally and I like them presented together as a series. Your reminders to stay on task, be calm and refocus during macro photography are timely as it is my most challenging week every month. I’ll be sure to take a closer look at my Camera+ app soon. 🙂

  20. I love milkweed and I like both these photos a lot. Both of them feel as though the milkweed could fly away with just a breath. I’ll have to look at Camera+. I should get more into editing options other than Picasa3 and other apps as well.


  21. Amy says:

    Milkweed is fascinating! These are great macro photos.

  22. nalinki says:

    Both of them are great. my favorite is number 2. It would just need the slightest idea of a breeze to make them move away…

  23. Madhu says:

    They are both terrific! I love the details in the second. Sally, is the Macro option accessed through settings? Can’t seem to find it anywhere on my camera+ app.

  24. Really like the second photo of the milkweed seeds…The bold, contrasting colors, and the detail is such an enjoyable image.

  25. I love the second best. 😀

  26. coolquilting says:

    I love the second one…the seeds spilling out of the pod

  27. Angeline M says:

    Beautiful work today, Sally. I especially love the second photo, that for me, seems to be a treasure revealed inside a seedpod. Absolutely glorious color and composition; an explosion of beauty.
    I discovered the macro lens on my phone and am trying to work with that on these shots now, avoiding zoom. Ahhh…I remember the good old days when I had an iPhone; I exclusively used Camera+ for all my photos then. I have as yet to find a similar app for my Samsung Galaxy (if someone knows of one, please let me know).

  28. Milkweed IS my favorite plant. Doesn’t thrive around here so I keep it in pots. Like, like, and love the second one with open pod, such depth.
    Oh Camera+ is a favorite too.

  29. Lovely Sally. I love the detail and clarity in the second image.

  30. Lectures au Coeur says:

    Hello Sally,
    I prefer the first picture, more simple, pure, and therefore more powerful.
    Nice textures and lovely composition!

  31. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Sally, thank you so much for this tip about the macro feature in Camera+. I have been blissfully unaware of it until now. Not only that, I had the lightbox sync turned off and was unaware of the editing possibilities in the app. A whole new world has opened up today.

  32. Nato says:

    I love the view of the seeds, but I am still partial to the first one. The framing and lighting are powerful, and the green stem seems to act as a leading line to the pod. Overall, it just pulls me in more. I didn’t know about the Camera+ app. I am checking it out now…once I remember my iTunes password, lol. Here is my submission for this week:

    • You brought a smile with your comment about remembering your password. I’ve got stacks of post-it notes with various ones. You also can go to the iTunes store through the Internet to check out Camera+. It really is one of the better apps. Hope that you decide to get it. I appreciate your comment. Thanks so much.

  33. pattimoed says:

    The second one is the winner! Lovely textures.

  34. I love the second, it reminds me of a botanical illustration showing all the parts of the milkweed pod. Lovely composition!

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