Picture This Photo Contest – January 2011

– Posted in: Garden Photography

As we kick off the New Year, what better way to start off our first Picture This Photo Contest of 2011 then with David Perry as our judge. As many of you may remember from our August 2009 Picture This, David is a phenomenal, multi-faceted photographer whose work is inspirational.  His website and blog, A Photographer’s Garden Blog are both feasts for the eye and a testament to David’s depth, creativity, and talent as both a garden photographer and writer.

20101027_ps[1]-David Perry-opening photo “Ok, my point-and-shoot-camera-lovin’ friends, you’ve all heard of time in a bottle and a tempest in a teapot, but (unless you’ve been following my blog, A Photographer’s Garden Blog at least November of last year, I’d be willing to bet you’ve never heard of “Macro in a Mason Jar” until now. And that is the theme for this month’s “Picture This” photo contest: Macro in a Mason Jar. Unlike some assignments where the kids with the bigger, fancier cameras have a distinct advantage, I’ve designed this contest just for you, point-and-shooters, but you will need to think small and get close, and you will need to find that nifty little close-up button on your camera, the one that looks like a flower symbol.

David Perry-a table lamp and small jar So here’s the dealio. This is a technique so simple, that anyone, even nervous types with coffee jitters, can get razor-sharp close ups of beautifully lit subjects without a tripod, and have a really good time doing it. Follow along with me for a minute while I show you what I mean. Then you can fire up your cameras, round up your repurposed jam, mayonnaise and peanut butter jars and start making a new kind of macro-photo magic.

What you’ll need:

1: A point and shoot camera with close-up capabilities or an SLR camera with a macro lens, or extension tubes. (Point-and-Shooters, look for the little flower symbol on a button or dial on the top of or back of your camera, and press it to turn on the close-up feature. Many little digital cameras will focus down as close as a half inch from the subject.)

2: A Mason jar, a peanut butter jar, a mayonnaise jar, a jam jar, a pickle jar . . . or all of the aforementioned.

David Perry-a side view of table lamp and jar

3: A willingness to play both with the subject you put in the jar, but also with the direction, quality and hue of the light pouring into the jar.

And here (below), are some of the exquisitely simple types of shots that you can get by shooting straight down into jars just like these. These are great practice type shots to help you get warmed up, but I’d encourage you, once you’ve got the hang of making shots like these, to try to shoot even more complex shots visually. Pictures with mystery and story.

David Perry-shot made from table and lamp set up

Now, for a quick primer on technique:

Once you’ve made any desired adjustments and framed up your shot, press your camera body downward, onto the rim of the glass jar while you depress the shutter button. The rigidity of the glass will keep the camera precisely distant, relative to the subject during your exposure, meaning that your pictures should be extra crispy sharp.

You can also add a plastic cutting sheet (as I have below), or enlist the white envelope that that latest piece of junk mail came in to serve as a reflector, softening the shadows by placing it either behind or beside the Mason jar to bounce light back into the image from another angle. Or, if you decide you need to diffuse the light from your table lamp or the window to soften the shadows, place the diffuse cutting board between the light source and the jar. You’ll be able to see the effects right away in the screen.

DavidPerry-quick primer on technique

I’d also encourage you to try to create and use “weird” light. Try shining a lamp through another jar filled with ice tea, or ice cubes and water and lemon slices right next to your shooting jar. Or bounce light off of a makeup mirror and into your shooting jar, or spritz the outside of your jar with a spray bottle, or use the want ads from the newspaper beneath the jar and wrapped around it. See how those elements can add background and shadows and other interest to the scene you’re shooting.

Notice the yellow plastic cutting board that I’m holding above the jar to color the light and give the scene an even warmer glow.

And here’s what the camera recorded. David Perry-onions-Micro In A Mason Jar

Here’s another example. An oyster on the half shell, a bit of hot sauce, and a bed of rock salt.

oyster on a hot shell-David Perry

Backing away a bit, now you can see the simplicity of the setup I used to get the shot. Note the rock salt on the outside of the jar, as well, and that I set the shot up on a white plate to help give the entire shot that high key, icy look.

David Perry-oyster on a hot shell from a distance

So, this month, I’m asking you to think small and get in close . . . to show me some essential aspect of a subject that simply cannot be seen or appreciated from a distance. The point of this contest is to encourage you to look and see from new perspectives, to learn more about your camera’s amazing capabilities. For your entries I want to see pictures that take me into the depths of a subject and that leave me feeling that I’ve seen something in a completely new way. I want to see pictures that record the play of light and shadow, and texture, and that set the table for an intriguing story while looking downward into a glass jar.

Your pictures can be of nearly any subjects for this contest, but I really want photographs that allow me to see seeds, feathers, plants, flowers, insects or textures in ways that are fresh and unexpected. The images should be about seeing first and the subjects second. They need to evoke mood, and they should strive to elicit some sort of emotional, poetic, or “Wow!” response.

Here (below), I shot to the edge of the jar, instead of trying to avoid it. Note the dry grass outside the jar. After shooting this one, I made a mirror image of it in Photoshop, merged the two and then made a typographic wordplay on the “self-sealing” words that had been cast into the glass during the manufacturing process.

David Perry-edge of jar with raspberries

Consider shooting through the bottom of a jar and into a mirror for an unusual self-portrait.

David Perry-bottom of jar shooting through the mirror










1.  You must have an active blog in order to participate. To be eligible for judging, you need to leave us TWO links – a direct link to the image, and a link to your blog post that includes the image (and that says you are entering the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest )– in a comment on this post.

2. You are allowed one entry per contest; your photo must be able to be copied from your site. That makes it possible for us to collect all the entries in one place for easier judging.

3. The deadline for entries is 11:59 PM Eastern time on Monday, January 24, 2011.

Entries that meet the above rules will be added to a separate gallery page. If you enter but your photo does not appear in the gallery within 24 hours, please review your entry to make sure you followed the rules.

All photos courtesy of David Perry.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest  

Fran Sorin
67 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Meems @Hoe & Shovel January 2, 2011, 12:33 pm

You are so gifted, talented, and creative. As much as I love design in general and photograhping using my point and shoot… my brain thinks in absolutes and black and white terms. You always nudge me to at least try to be more abstract in my artistic endeavors. I love this (jar) idea… and always appreciate your helpful hints and desire to help us amateurs improve our range and capabilities.

This should be very fun for all who participate.

David Perry January 3, 2011, 1:08 am

Dear Meems,
Thank you so much for your kind words and for being so very gracious and willing to be nudged. I’m really excited to see what you and others will come up with, and am expecting great and beautiful things.

Charlotte January 4, 2011, 12:35 pm

What a fantastic tutorial – such excellent advice. I love both the ingenuity of the jar/tripod and the nifty business of surrounding it with associated things – salt/onions. Just brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing your secrets! I got a new camera for Christmas and have just been admitted to Blotanical, so I am certainly ready to have a go at this – bit daunted though. Got to get thinking about what might work best…. hmmm

aerie-el January 5, 2011, 7:31 pm


What a great idea! I was all over this one.

Link to photo:

Link with blog post of photo:

I found this sad little spider family inside a jar that had been on top of a bookcase at my mom’s house. I set the jar on the Formica counter-top, played with shining a flashlight at different angles, and liked this photo best.

Thanks again for the tutorial, and the inspiration!


Hey Aerie-el

I need for you to set up a link back to gardeninggonewild.com when you enter your photo. If your entry is from a past post, you’ll need to write another quick post (with the photo ) saying that you’ve entered GGW’s Picture This Photo Contest. Doing this is very helpful to us because it brings more gardeners to the contest.
Please send me the new link once you’ve written it. Thanks. Fran

aerie-el January 6, 2011, 9:19 am

Dear Fran,

Here is the link to my new post/entry with GGW link:

Here is the direct link to the photo:

Thank you!


Hey Aerie-el,

Thanks so much for taking care of that. It really makes things much more clear for everyone. Good luck! Fran

Bonnie January 6, 2011, 9:38 am

I can’t wait to try this. Thanks!

Shellsey January 6, 2011, 5:51 pm

Brilliant idea, thank you for sharing.

Christina Salwitz January 7, 2011, 7:31 pm

I am So excited about his technique- brilliant! I really feel like I can do this one. Thank you!

Delighted that you’re going to give it a try. Only David could come up a challenge like this one! Fran

Gary January 10, 2011, 2:00 am

You guys are always so inspiring! David always comes up with unique ways to look at the world…

Here is a link to my blog post:


And a direct link to the image I made:



Mike January 11, 2011, 7:21 am

I know this is a gardening site, but I implemented your little trick here and got some great shots of some coins at the bottom of a mason jar! I’d like to submit them for the contest, but dont want to coins as subject matter would be a breach of the rules

I would love to let you enter but I can’t. If I let you, it’s going to open pandora’s box. Why don’t you take the next step and take some photos with flowers? Go for it!! Fran

Christina Salwitz January 11, 2011, 2:59 pm

Had so much fun with this one! thanks for inspiring me to try something new.
Here is a link to my blog post:

And here’s the link to my Photo Entry:

Thank you!

Joseph Tychonievich January 11, 2011, 6:17 pm

Here’s my link to my blog post:

And here is the link to the photo itself:

This is my first time entering! I’m looking really looking forward to seeing what everyone else does.

Alison January 11, 2011, 7:19 pm

I hope I did this correctly! Here’s a link to the blog post:


And here’s a link to the image:


Thanks for the great tips!

Kerry January 12, 2011, 6:43 pm
David Perry January 14, 2011, 4:15 pm

WOW! We are beginning to build some beautiful momentum here, people. And though I don’t want to weigh in yet on individual efforts (seems I should save that until the contest closes, dontcha think?), I do feel compelled to say that those of you who have submitted so far are making me smile. So thank you!!! And for those of you who still intend to play, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, I understand intimately how dear time is and still hope you will find time to show us what your eye can make with these simple tools. Seeing what you all come up with is the sweetest of treats to a picture junkie like me.

Happy shooting . . .

Craig @ Ellis Hollow January 16, 2011, 12:51 pm

Yes. Let’s just say I’ve got some technical issues to work out before I fully embrace ‘mason-jar marcos’. It was fun trying.

Image: http://ellishollow.remarc.com/images/jan2011masonjarx600.jpg

Post: http://remarc.com/craig/?p=1161
(It’s down at the bottom after the scans.)

Lynn January 17, 2011, 1:53 pm

I do have a question before I submit my picture. With the theme Macro in a Jar, is that part of the criteria? What I’m asking is should you be able to tell that the subject is in a jar or is the jar just part of the process? I have a few that you only see a small part of the bottom of the jar and others that you can clearly see the jar. Maybe I’m thinking too far into this!

Angelyn January 17, 2011, 7:27 pm

Here’s my entry . . . My blog post is at:
The direct link to the full size image is at:
Thanks for the opportunity to play!

David Perry January 17, 2011, 11:45 pm

Hi Lynn, in response to your question, no you do not have to be able to tell that the subject is in a jar. If that is a part of the story your image wants to tell, then fine, make the jar a part of your visual story. But otherwise, simply use the jar to help you achieve a really cool picture that you probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Make sense?

And please, anyone now considering using some really cool macro type image that you already have in your library, cuz who’s gonna know if the jar doesn’t need to show, think about the spirit of this little contest, and that a big part of the ‘spirit’ is to inspire you all to see in new ways and to shoot new pictures using new and very, very simple tools. Have fun . . .

Thanks so much for emphasizing that. Having fun and experimenting are the name of the game when participating in Picture This. Fran

lynn January 18, 2011, 1:08 am

Awesome. These shots are simply awesome.

One January 18, 2011, 4:25 am

Hi David, This is my first visit and I am very impressed with your creativity and your generosity to guide others in taking great pictures the fun and creative way. The onions are awesome. I would like to participate with my point and shoot if I can come up with something decent. Thanks for the tips.

One January 18, 2011, 9:39 am
Julie January 19, 2011, 9:10 am

Please enter my picture in the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest. Thanks and best of luck everyone! Julie

Image link: http://i1138.photobucket.com/albums/n537/Julie_Drexler/flower.jpg

Blog post link: http://www.phartsandcrafts.com/2011/01/winna-winna-chicken-dinna.html


I was able to put your photo up but unable to get the link to your site….it just wouldn’t work…please let me know how to get on…thanks. fran

Susan in the Pink Hat January 19, 2011, 10:21 am

Here is my entry. I have my favorites among the entries and hope to see more. As for mine, I’m just wanting to share what I was able to see through my lens.

Image link:

Post link:

Dee January 19, 2011, 10:47 am

My fish and I spent the better part of an afternoon on this. I had fun, but he was ready to go back to the pond.

Here’s the entry: http://behindthefence.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/fish-in-a-jar-one.jpg

And here’s the post: http://behindthefence.net/2011/01/19/shooting-a-fish-in-a-jar/

Darla January 19, 2011, 11:28 am

I’m having trouble figuring out how to do a direct link to the photo. Can you help me?

Darla January 19, 2011, 12:18 pm
Darla January 19, 2011, 12:22 pm
Jill January 19, 2011, 3:20 pm

This has been a lot of fun – first time I’ve entered one of these contests, and I have certainly learnt a lot!
Here’s a link to my photo: http://landscapelover.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/macro-mason2.jpg
And here’s the post: http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/macro-in-a-mason-jar/

Julie January 19, 2011, 4:00 pm

Thanks Fran – I was having technical difficulties this morning. Blog link should work now.

Thanks so much 🙂

Blog link: http://www.phartsandcrafts.com/2011/01/winna-winna-chicken-dinna.html

Here’s the image link (just in case): Image link: http://i1138.photobucket.com/albums/n537/Julie_Drexler/flower.jpg

Nancy Bond January 19, 2011, 8:29 pm

This is such a fun technique — I can’t wait to try it with some summer blooms and foliage! There are some great entries, as always.

Link to PHOTO: http://nancybond.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/buttons2.jpg

Link to POST: http://wp.me/p2bM3-1zk

lani January 19, 2011, 9:43 pm

Oh my gosh how much fun did i have today …and who a thought…thanks here are my links
Blog Post http://golanigo.blogspot.com/2011/01/picture-this-photo-contest-january-2011.html
Picture http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_P3EDHWnxkDA/TTef0Hy1sMI/AAAAAAAACjs/vWIhqpURXA8/s1600/DSC04193.JPG

I have gone to everyone’s entries they all look great good job using your noggins think-in of stuff to put in the jars….God Bless

Sara Chapman in Seattle, USA January 20, 2011, 1:14 am

Hi David,

Neat post and contest! I am posting a macro taken with a point and shoot, but not in a jar. I hope it’s OK. The link http://www.lovethatimage.com/blog/2011/01/geranium-leaf/ is for the post containing the photo. I’m not sure where to find the link for the image itself. Just right click on the image and it should save fine, or if on a Mac just drag to your desktop. Please email me if there are any problems.

Sara Chapman in Seattle, USA January 20, 2011, 1:17 am

So the link in the Rules to the Gallery Page doesn’t work, I got a 404 message. Darn!


thanks for the heads up about the link. I thought all was fine. You don’t need the link in order to enter.
I will grab the photo from your post and add it to the galler. For future reference, all you need to do is click on it, it should become much larger and be the only thing on a new page. Copy the URL from the top of the page and post it on GGW as link to the photo.

Lynn January 20, 2011, 6:55 am

This was really a lot of fun. My neighbors thought I was crazy at one point when I was in the snow taking pics in a jar!
Here’s the blog entry:
and here’s the link to the photo:
C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\My Documents\My Pictures\2011-01-17, Photos in a jar

Lynn January 20, 2011, 6:56 am

ok, so that didn’t work. Please delete the above post and I’ll try to get that link corrected!

Lynn January 20, 2011, 7:02 am

Lets try this again.
Here’s the direct link to the photo:


Here’s the link to the blog entry:
I’m crossing my fingers that the links work!

Susan in the Pink Hat January 20, 2011, 1:36 pm

Can we post links to more macro in a jar pics we post on our blogs here even though they are not entries to the official contest?


What I would suggest is that you send a quick post saying that you have other macro photos that you want to share and offer one link that will take readers back to your site. OK? Fran

Tasha January 20, 2011, 7:43 pm
Annelie January 20, 2011, 10:08 pm

Hi Fran,

I’m entering Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest.

Direct link to photo:


Link to blog entry:

This was harder than I thought, but mind opening and fun.



Hi Annelie-

I just posted it in the Gallery. I fixed the link…I hope! Fran

Annelie January 21, 2011, 11:43 am

Sorry to bug you, Fran, but I can’t seem to get to the gallery through your link. Don’t know if my picture made it.

Hmmm…will get on and check it out and make sure the link is working…if I don’t see your entry, I’ll e0mail you! Fran


Annelie January 21, 2011, 2:02 pm

The link is working, thanks, love looking at all the beautiful entries.

Cat January 22, 2011, 12:00 am

Thanks Gardening Gone Wild for hosting and David for all your effort! This was a lot of fun – so glad for the challenge – would never have thought of this on my own!



Jan (Thanks For Today) January 22, 2011, 1:05 am

After having a lot of fun experimenting, I finally got brave and decided on a photo to enter. The link is here:


And the link to the blog post where I discuss the process can be found here:


Thanks for having these fun contests;-)

Gardening Jones January 22, 2011, 9:20 am

Love this post, I had a great time playing with my camera and cannig jars, thanks- I’m definately a point-and-shoot kind of person, I learned a lot.
I’d like to enter one of my shots. The blog post about entering is here:
I did crop the pic a bit after I blogged, hope that is okay? Here’s the picture by itself- this is the one I want to enter: http://www.gardeningjones.com/garden_pic.htm
Thank you! GJ

Carolyn Binder January 22, 2011, 4:36 pm

Hi fellow gardeners! I had so much fun with this macro photography lesson and thoroughly enjoyed David Perry’s site. Isn’t it inspirational? I will be playing with this method forever! It is such a great way to learn about light, which is what photography is all about.

Here’s the link to my blog:

Here’s the link to my favorite photo:

Thank you so much for this great lesson!


Lynn M. Phillips January 22, 2011, 4:43 pm

Had fun doing this. Here’s a direct link to the photo I’m entering in the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest:


Here’s the link to my blog post:


Thank you! lp

Jan (Thanks For Today) January 22, 2011, 11:23 pm

Because my original ‘intent’ was to include the blue glass bowl filled with water and floating flora, I feel that by allowing my daughter to choose a different photo for me was untrue to myself. SO in that spirit, I am requesting to discard my first photo entry (above) and replace it with this one (below). This is the one I was going to choose all along. It may not be a ‘winner’, and that’s ok. What I like about it is the wreath-like effect around the base of the jar, and the blue and pink jewel tones that were what I was looking for all along. I hope this will be ok. Thanks!!!!!


Of course, this all comes from the same blog post, still at the same address, but I’ll list it again for continuity:


Thanks. Jan

Toni - Signature Gardens January 23, 2011, 12:48 am

It’s down to the wire, but I finally have my contest entry ready. Many thanks to GGW for hosting the contest and to Mr. Perry for taking the time to judge the entries.

Link to blog:

Link to photo:

Donna January 23, 2011, 3:29 pm

I enjoyed the tutorial and would like to enter the contest. Thank you for the opportunity.

The image link:

Garden Sense January 23, 2011, 7:26 pm

I had a lot of fun with this technique! Thanks for hosting the contest!

My entry for the contest is:

Blog post:

Photo link:

Malinda January 23, 2011, 7:49 pm

This was so much fun! What a great idea. David, you’re an inspiration.

Here are my links….


And the picture


Pat Dolan January 23, 2011, 8:16 pm

Thanks for the inspiration and suggestions. This was a fun project!

Here is the blog post link:

Here is the photo link:

Donna January 24, 2011, 9:54 am

Please include my submission for the Picture This contest.
Image link:
Thank you very much for the opportunity and the wonderful tutorial.

Amy/Go Away, I'm Gardening! January 24, 2011, 10:07 am

Hello, me again! I just read the rules a little closer and here is my entry for the GGW picture this contest. 🙂

Blog Link Photo:

Just Photo Link:

Thanks so much for the fun contest!!

Melody January 24, 2011, 12:01 pm

I’m excited to go take a look at what everyone has created!

Here is my entry:
Photo: http://homeiswheretheheartis.us/pictureinabottle/11_800x600.jpg


Good luck to everyone, and thanks for the challenge and instruction, David. 🙂

andrea January 24, 2011, 1:36 pm

i really enjoyed compiling images for this contest, thanks to everyone involved!

blog link:

image link:

Darla January 24, 2011, 1:45 pm

Oh my goodness, the competition is fierce
!! So very creative..this was sooo much fun!

Amy/Go Away, I'm Gardening! January 24, 2011, 3:52 pm

Did you have trouble with my image?

Amy…it should be up now…sorry for the mistake on my part! and thanks for beingso persistent 🙂 Fran

Jen@ Nyack Backyard January 24, 2011, 8:32 pm

Hi There – I’m new to this blog and to photo contests in general, but I saw some entries on a few blogs and decided to try it! Thanks for creating something for us scardy -cats!

Post link:

Photo link

sarah January 24, 2011, 9:21 pm

Thanks for the fun!
Here is my blogpost:

and here is the photo

I can’t wait to see the gallery!

sarah January 24, 2011, 9:42 pm

Here is the photo just off of blogger, rather than through flickr…


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