The magic of ultraviolet nature and macro photography

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Ultraviolet images is one thing that comparatively few photographers discover, however it’s a captivating realm to discover with much less of an funding in gear than most individuals assume.

A lot of my images revolves around the globe that we can't see with our personal eyes. This “unseen world” strategy could make otherworldly lovely pictures from on a regular basis strange topics. Utilizing mild past our personal spectrum is a good way to start out these explorations—enter the world of ultraviolet images.

To make clear: There are two forms of ultraviolet images. UV reflectance and UV fluorescence. UV reflectance is utilizing a light-weight supply that incorporates UV mild (such because the solar or a full-spectrum mild supply) and amassing solely the ultraviolet mild that hits the digital camera sensor. This requires a digital camera modification just like what you'd do for infrared images, however on the opposite finish of the spectrum.

It might reveal hidden patterns in flowers that solely bugs can see, like a bulls-eye sample in sunflowers and what successfully seems as a “touchdown strip” in lots of flowers to draw pollinators.

The underside-right picture above is made by amassing UV mild. The underside center is seen mild and the left is an infrared picture of the identical sunflower. Whereas the darkish sample is definitely fascinating, issues develop into virtually magical once you make the flower fluoresce (giant picture). UV fluorescence requires a daily unmodified digital camera, however cautious consideration to make sure solely pure UV mild hits the topic. If something within the body fluoresces, seen mild bounces again to the digital camera.

Apparently, nearly the whole lot in nature fluoresces to a point. You could have heard about scorpions or sure millipedes glowing beneath UV mild, however in case you convey ahead sufficient UV-only mild, every part can “glow”. The depth of the sunshine is vital, and it must be “pure” as even a fraction of a proportion of spill-over into the seen spectrum will contaminate your outcomes.

This can be a typical setup for an ultraviolet shot. Every of those Yongnuo 685 flashes has been modified to output solely UV mild, and the method solely takes about 5 minutes. You'll want to disassemble the flash (Warning: that is excessive voltage gear you’re opening up. You'll be able to significantly harm or kill your self if the flash isn’t correctly discharged and also you contact the incorrect elements. Should you’re not sure find out how to cope with gear like this, give it to knowledgeable.) and take away two items of plastic which might be in entrance of the xenon flash tube. These management the flash beam but in addition block UV mild.

There are two screws and some clamps beneath the rubber circles on the edges of the flash, it’s not a sophisticated process. With these gone and the flash reassembled, you want to filter the sunshine right down to UV-only. I exploit a mixture of two 77mm filters that do an superior job: the Hoya U340 and the MidOpt BP365. Every of those filters on their very own leak a really small portion of the seen spectrum; one leaks pink, the opposite leaks violet. Collectively, they block all of it. Conveniently, additionally they permit infrared mild to move by means of which the digital camera can’t see both, to allow them to serve a number of functions.

The fee for every flash modification was round USD$500, so moving into this space of images prices lower than a great lens.

With three of those flashes at point-blank vary at 100% output, the above picture nonetheless wanted to be shot at ISO 5000. Aphids being feasted on by a ladybug on a plum leaf by no means appeared so weird. I’m not sure of the precise cause, however aphids and small spiders are likely to fluoresce inexperienced.

Most insect eyes fluoresce blue, however flowers can include many various colours—a yellow woman slipper orchid maintains its yellow “shoe”, however the ordinarily-green leaves glow purple.

The important thing right here is fixed experimentation. Some flowers or bugs are utterly uninteresting in the best way they fluoresce, whereas others are shockingly vibrant. It’s necessary to notice that nothing can ever see the world this manner—it requires that each one seen mild be filtered from the sunshine supply. Bugs can see mirrored UV, like this cicada picture:

However if you photograph that very same cicada in a darkish room and gather the seen mild? The clear wings flip right into a science-fiction shade of glowing blue. The identical is true for sure species of dragonflies, although most bugs with smaller wings are unresponsive. Some analysis has been achieved into this and appears to hyperlink the elastomeric protein “resilin” and its nitrogen content material to those glowing options however I’m shocked on the lack of scientific articles on the subject.

As a photographer (and never an entomologist or scientist in any means), I merely discover this unknown realm with childhood curiosity.


Don Komarechka is a nature, panorama, and macro photographer based mostly in Barrie, Canada. His macro work has been highlighted in worldwide publications. Don is an writer, educator, and adventurer with a ardour for revealing “the unseen world.”

To see extra of his work, go to his website or comply with him on Facebook and Flickr.

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