I volunteer in an exhibit where visitors can choose from thousands of collection objects to take out, touch, and study. It’s really cool to see kids using microscopes and getting excited about learning.


Above: a girl looking at sparrow eggs.

Since I have a love for macro photography, it’s also fantastic to see the collection objects under the microscope. There are thousands of little details and, often, the most surprising textures or variations that we can’t notice with just our eyes.

I’ve been snatching iPhone photos of many of these over the past few weeks – quick snapshots don’t make for the best photo composition, but I’m going to share them anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t note down what all of them were, but again – I’m going to share them anyway.

This is probably my favorite. Here is the “normal size” version …


And below is the microscope version.


The reason I think this one is so cool – besides just “Look at it, of course it’s amazing!” is that it’s a dinosaur bone.

Really. A dinosaur bone – except that instead of the bone being replaced with stone like fossils frequently are, this one got replaced by the mineral agate.

Here are other photos:



Igneous rock basaltic glass, normal-sized:


And under a microscope:


The shell of a painted snail – that’s its name, “painted snail”:



Above: “normal size” tectosilicate mineral chalcedony. Below, the zoom-in:




Another thing I love – as shown in the photos above – is how you can re-focus the microscope so that different “layers” of an object come more into focus.

A shell:



The wing from a bumblebee (my iPhone somehow turned everything purple?):


The wing from a dragonfly:


A moth:


A morpho butterfly (those circles are pins keeping it in place):



Ivory tree coral:


Gorgeous, aren’t they? Watching the kids use the microscopes and get so enthusiastic makes me want to have a microscope someday at home for my own kids to play with.


Photo Project: Photo Combining

I had this idea at work and posted about it on Facebook to “obligate” myself to follow through and not back out because I might decide it was too ridiculous or too challenging or whatnot. And it actually turned out really well, so I’m glad!


Every single part of this picture was photographed separately – the jar, the plant, the arm, the drops (yes, that’s photographed), the knife. I got a bit stuck on how to imply the wrist was bleeding so hopefully that comes across. Originally I wanted to show that the plant was growing out of the green blood but again, I hoped it was implied well enough without getting too crazy.

I may have been reading too many “mystical forest magic” stories lately!

At the end of the day, this was about how well I could combine photos so I’m quite pleased, especially since this was my first attempt.


Back around New Years I decided to renew my commitment to exploring more and censoring myself less. I’m not great at indulging my interests and I tend to be satisfied with “everyday adventures” – like trying a new recipe. That’s not a bad quality – it certainly helps keep my budget in line – but there are a lot of things I’ve wanted to do for years and never really took any first steps towards.

So I signed up for a glassblowing class for the end of January. It was a great experience – to give myself that permission to do something just because it interested me, to attempt something completely out of my element (I’m better with words and images than with raw materials), and to step up and try something that made me a bit nervous (think molten glass on a heavy metal stick).

I’ve been waiting to post about it until I picked up my piece! I could have picked it up the very next day – it just needed to cool – but work and rock climbing kept me from getting there til tonight. I was going to wait til the weekend, and daylight, to take photos – but I had caffeine at 5:30pm and went on a creative frenzy at bedtime, sending my roommate searching for white fabric, moving my lamp, rearranging my mirror, sweeping everything and anything off my desk to make room. It was awesome.

Here are photos from the glassblowing workshop:

This is called the crucible. Incidentally, this led me to look up the etymology of the word crucible. I’ve been mistakenly associating it with crucifix for years because of the play The Crucible. Turns out it’s from “crucibulum” originally meaning “night lamp.” Since 1645 it’s been used to describe a severe test or trial.

Inside the crucible are these clear glass chips:

Which look exactly like ice cubes. The furnace melts them into the molten glass that we use for glassblowing.

For color, we dip the hot glass in crushed colored glass:

Then we melt it in with more heat.

During the shaping process, we use different tools, as well as more heat to keep the glass malleable enough:

This tool helps make an indent (aka, the thinnest point of glass) where the glass first leaves the rod, so that when the piece is cool we can just tap the rod and the glass piece will separate.

The paddle helps make a flat bottom so your glass can stand up!

Heat throughout the process keeps your glass workable – so long as you keep turning it so it doesn’t droop too far off center!

Up until this point (above), you’ve been working on the glass with the top of the glass attached to your rod. Our teacher got a dab of molten glass to attach the bottom of the glass to a new rod so we could open up the mouth of our glasses.

After we separated our finished product from the rod, our teacher grabbed an open flame to seal the spot where the glass had been attached to the rod and to give it a finish. I’m not sure what’s on that rag that keeps it from catching fire – I need to go back and ask!

We each made two pieces. The first is called a “caterpillar” and is the first piece every glassblower makes. It’s a chance to get a feel for the tools and “get your feet wet” with glass. I grabbed a small mirror for these photos:

The second piece was a glass or vase (one student made a shot glass). My teacher dubbed mine a “wonky glass.” Megan asked me what makes a wonky glass and I said “because it’s wonky.”

Just to obsess over mirrors and lighting for a minute – here’s a shot without them set up well:

Here are shots with them:

That’s my glass! I can’t wait to use it – I love it!

Here’s my set-up – despite the chaos it wreaked on my room, it’s actually pretty simple:

The white fabric kept the mirror from reflecting my room – or me – in the photos, and added a nice texture, I think. I haven’t experimented with mirrors much, and with fabric even less – I tend to take photos with natural settings rather than create scenes. But I’m really pleased with how these turned out and it’s another creative thing I want to pursue more. Maybe I’ll figure out how to permanently set up my desk so it’s easy to set up photo shoots without relocating three piles of stuff.

Hmmm, now where to keep my glass?