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How to Shoot Creative Macro Photos of Skeleton Leaves

Today we are going to use skeleton leaves and glycerin for a creative macro project. Skeleton leaves are fascinating and intricate structures that make great subjects for macro photography and creative projects.

While collecting such leaves along the river last fall, I noticed how well their skeletons hold on to a thin film of water if they get wet. Would this be a suitable subject for refraction images?

The answer was yes. After I took some quick test shots I realized that I was on to something. As the leaves consist of neighboring but separated cells, every one of the cells will act as an individual optical element and show a slightly different projection of the background in behind. Together they mimic the patchwork effect of stained glass.


The initial test shot, that sparked this project; even though this leaf was in a rather rough condition, it worked well enough to test the concept.

Unfortunately, well-preserved skeletons are really hard to find in nature. But apart from nature walks, you can also find such skeleton leaves in many craft stores and even online (e.g. eBay). You can even make your own, which is what I did. The process is simple but slow and I explain it in the video below:

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