August 2023 Match Brief: Upon Closer Examination with Guest Judge Dara Ojo

August 2023 50/50 Challenge

Full Match Brief

Upon Closer Examination...

Nothing is more humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination.” 

― Craig Rudolf Arnheim, Art Philosopher 

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” 

― Chuck Palahniuk, author (Fight Club)

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Contrary to popular belief, viewing the world from a “macro” perspective has little to do with looking at microscopic things with a magnifying glass and everything to do with observing small details to reveal, interpret, and understand the world we live in. If you’ve ever pondered the meaning of, “Can’t see the forest but for the trees,” this month’s challenge will spell it out in great detail.

To read the tl:dr version of this macro photography challenge or submit your entry now, please scroll to the bottom of this post or visit

If you're up for some storytelling as a preface, please read on...


Horror movies are supposed to scare us. They tap into tiny deep-seated visceral fears and phobias embedded in our collective (albeit often unconscious) human psyche by portraying scenarios that set us on edge. They build uncomfortably familiar situations that trigger our default “fight or flight” instinct. Broadly speaking, humans are programmed to do this out of self-preservation, but in the real world, encountering things (real or imagined) that we perceive as a threat or danger (real or imagined) can lead to experiencing a (real or imagined) world rooted in mistrust and fear instead of understanding and curiosity. In a presumably safe and controlled environment, fear becomes excitement and often turns into shared laughter. What happens in the moment,  though? Well - that’s often an entirely different story.


Picture this.

It's late summer. It’s just before sunrise on a Saturday morning. For two weeks, long days of blistering heat have been followed by short nights of violent thunderstorms that rip up the skies from dusk ‘til dawn.

You started (and subsequently ended) your Friday late due to yet another power outage that lasted so long that by late Saturday afternoon your phone still isn’t fully charged. In the distance you hear the mechanical hum of folks with mowers doing short laps across their lawns. They are trying to tame grass and weeds that seem to thrive in this weather before the heat or next storm hits. You consider doing the same but decide to enjoy a short walk in the cool air instead. You note your phone battery is at 6% but turn on your music anyway as you venture out into a low blanket of fog creeping across the ground.

You walk long enough you barely notice that the music feeding your earholes has stopped. You are temporarily blinded by one, two, five, eight, twenty flashes of brilliant white. You fumble for your cell phone to help you navigate the waning twilight but quickly realize your dead battery is no help. 

You stop and wait for your eyes to adjust, your other senses heightened. There has been a sudden drop in the temperature. Your skin is clammy. You feel your own heartbeat thrumming against the silent ear buds still pressed into your ears as you instinctively remove them and begin sniffing the air.

Expecting the smell of gasoline and fresh lawn clippings or perhaps ozone from the lightning, your nostrils are instead filled with smoke from surrounding forest fires that have combined with the humidity, making the air you’re trying to draw into your lungs thick and dense and suffocating.

You freeze. Listen. Wait for the low rumble of thunder from the encroaching storm. But the lawnmowers have stopped and all you can hear are your own laboured breathing, buzzing insects, and something large rustling in the foliage just inches from where you are frozen. Wishing you had remembered bug repellent you helplessly flail your arms around your head, swatting at bugs you can hear but cannot see, as you desperately squint at the faint fading light filtering through nearby branches.

You glimpse the silhouette of something large crawling on all fours. The shape rises to stand on two feet. Light glints off a pair of shiny black eyes set into dark brown skin, bright white teeth spread into an impish grin, and the tall figure emerges from the trees with its arms extended towards you. In the dim light you notice a large spider splayed across the palm of one hand, a shiny black beetle on the other.

A bright steady light flicks on, emanating from the figure’s head, and it reminds you of that one time the dentist started drilling without administering enough novocaine. Paralyzed with fear, moths flutter around the light and mosquitoes pierce your flesh as a deep male voice laced with a thick foreign accent gently beckons you to step into the woods, promising to show you a whole new world if you would only accept the invitation and take a closer look…


Pause for a moment and (without filtering your thoughts) ask yourself what you fear might happen next? What made you squeamish? What parts fetl the MOST dangerous or threatening (and why?) and what DID not feel dangerous or threatening (and why not?) How did your age, sex/gender/orientation, your physical health, your religious, cultural or spiritual beliefs, pop culture and media influences, and your own fears, phobias, and after-dark experiences impact what did or did not create a sense of danger?


Edmonton-based macro photographer Dara Ojo does not claim to be an expert on either photography or entomology, yet he has been taking the world by storm with his incredible photos of creepy crawlies since a photo he snapped of a longhorn beetle during pandemic boredom went viral

The Nigerian-born IT specialist lived and studied in the UK and China before ending up in Canada. He is the first to admit that prior to the pandemic, he could not have imagined that a childhood fear of spiders and a penchant for playing with his father’s clunky broken camera would one day see him overcoming his phobia and creeping around on all fours in near darkness to snap extreme close-ups of insects and arachnids. Fear was replaced with curiosity when Dara began learning about insects, their physiology and behaviour, and the part they play in the ecosystem. In a recent interview he confessed he isn’t quite ready to own a pet tarantula yet and explained in this interview that he gets mixed reactions to not only his chosen genre of photography (the stuff phobias are made of) but how he does it (in near-darkness) and who he is (a person of colour who has experienced both open racism and systemic bias) and the bottom line is that come rain or come shine, hunting bugs to shoot with a camera is his now preferred summertime activity.

By now it should come as no surprise that this month’s Match Brief is a macro challenge. Knowing now that a chance encounter with Dara might read a bit like the opening scene of a horror movie, the extra challenge this month is to get curious about the unconscious unfamiliar, and spend some time learning something new about yourself, your subject, and your environment. Dara invites you to explore the world in a new way.

Challengers, as always you are welcome to enter a photo from your archives, but this is your opportunity to get out there and like the director of a great horror movie, make the unfamiliar comfortable and the familiar uncomfortable. Whether you decide to create an image that makes terrifying things beautiful and enticing or make something so uninteresting it’s boringly abstract, your Challenge this month is to introduce your audience to the proverbial forest by exposing the trees using macro photography.

Learn more about Dara (and access some of his tips, tricks and not-so-secret secrets) by visiting his bio HERE.


Technical: standard merits as applied to macro photography (composition, focus, stacking, etc.)

Creative: unique perspectives, looking closer to see a bigger picture, creative interpretation of the brief

EDI: unconscious bias, challenging fear-based perspectives

The Fine Print

Entry Fee: $25 per image.

Prizes: Winner receives 50% of all entry fees (exclusive of applicable taxes and fees) plus a personalised critique from the Guest Judge, your winning image featured on websites, blogs, and social media platforms, and in the corresponding month of the Rare Earth Outreach fundraising calendar for the following year. Two Runners Up will also receive personalised feedback from the Guest Judge.

Title and Artist Statement: The title of your image should reflect the spirit or theme of your submission; the accompanying Artist's Statement includes a brief explanation of both your inspiration and your process.

Entries Open: August 1, 2023 @ 9:00am MST

Entries Close: August 21, 2023 @ 11:59pm MST

Winner Announced: August 31, 2023




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