Capturing Wonders with our Mobile Devices: 3 Question Interview with Phoneographer Bea Leiderman

by Matthew Worwood

There are many cool things that parents can do with their children using smartphones – one of them is Phoneography – the capturing and editing of photos with a phone. In this 3 Question Interview, we introduce the OlloClip – a tiny camera lens that connects to a mobile device and helps capture unique perspectives of our world. When I talk about the potential of this little gadget with parents and educators, I usually go straight to a Bea Leiderman’s work, which is full of inspirational images that engage the curiosity and wonder that can be found in nature. Bea’s work has been shared in a number of her digital books that are available on iTunes. I asked her to provide some advice on Phoneography and how we might use this activity to engage creative thinking skills at home.

How do you take such awesome photos with a device like the iPhone?  

The iPhone has a very powerful camera. I started taking photos with the iPhone 4. Now I’m using an iPhone 6 and I can see the difference when I look through my iPhone library. Each new iPhone has produced crisper images with better color reproduction. But, my macro shots do have outside help. I use the Olloclip lens, and I have also gone through a series of those. 

It takes lots of patience to get macro shots in focus with the iPhone and the Olloclip. I have to get very close to the bugs. So, I have to employ one of two strategies with the fast ones. I either move faster than they do, or I wait and wait and wait until they get used to me and let me get close enough. Keep in mind that I have to get my lens about an inch away from my bug or everything will be blurry.

I find the best times to photograph bugs are early morning and close to sunset. The light is soft enough that it does not glare off wings, eyes, or shells.


Copyright – Bea Leiderman

What ‘technical’ advice can you offer parents on how to capture that perfect image?

While I don’t take bugs out of their environment, I do work hard to make them look beautiful and interesting. Working with something as small as an iPhone gives me the opportunity to find a good angle. I like showing bugs’ faces. Some look silly, some look serious, and some look surprised to be having their picture taken.

Bug pictures are not for everyone. Still, I think taking good pictures involves many of the same principles regardless of what you are shooting. Make sure what you want to showcase is clearly visible, so look for an angle where the background is not cluttered with distracting stuff.

Copyright - Bea Leiderman

Copyright – Bea Leiderman

How might Phoneography help cultivate creative thinking skills at home?

“Put your device down and go outside to play.” Has anyone heard this? Devices and the outdoors are not mutually exclusive. When kids take pictures of what they find when exploring the outdoors, they create a record for themselves. They also have the opportunity to observe and explore well after the weather has turned stormy. Photography teaches kids to observe, to look closely. With a bit of guidance, kids can make beautiful art with a camera.

When I share my bug photos with kids, I call attention to details that might not be noticeable when they see the bugs in the wild. With pictures, kids can notice all kinds of details and take their time comparing, making inferences, generating hypotheses. Kids could even write a book to share their findings with people all around the world. An app like Book Creator would be the perfect tool for the task.

Little kids love nature and exploring. They are also fascinated by the “ew” factor. I have been writing books for kids that showcase my pictures and are written in accessible language with the hope that the books will encourage parents to explore with their children to help keep the love of science learning alive. I have a big camera with a big macro lens, but I do all my work with my iPhone and my Olloclip because these are much more affordable and easier to use. So, anyone can do what I do.

 Go outside. Find the beautiful bugs in your yard and other green spaces around you. You don’t have to go on a safari to a far away place to discover amazing creatures. Have fun and don’t stop learning.

Click here to view the full interview, or check out one of Bea’s four Digital Books, Calling Nature: Macro Photography and the iPhone, which shares more advice on how to go about working with Macro Photography with mobile devices and is available for free from the iTunes Store.

If you liked this article and interested in capturing video, check out another DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview with Lego Animator, Alex Kobbs.

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Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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