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Sneezy Season

It's March in New Jersey, which for me, means allergies. The warmer weather and longer days triggered the start of the allergy season, which typically begins in late February and lasts through May. The primary allergens during March are tree pollens, such as maple, birch, and oak. I'm allergic to all of them.

March can also bring high mould spores. The melting snow (less of that this year) and rain (a lot more of that) create a damp environment conducive to mould growth. I'm allergic to mould, especially anything in the penicillium genus.

My allergy symptoms include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and scratchy throat. These symptoms can be mild to severe, interfering with daily activities and affecting my quality of life. Right now, I would say they are severe.

The additional challenge is that excess fluid builds up in my ear canals leading to labyrinthitis and vertigo - a sensation of dizziness and spinning that can make a person feel like they are moving when they are stationary. Nausea, vomiting, and sweating can last minutes to hours.

I have typically used Zyrtec and over-the-counter antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms, but it doesn't seem to work anymore. Right now, I stay indoors during peak pollen times - early morning and late afternoon, keeping windows closed. But soon, the trees and the woods will be full of new life, and I'll be torn between my desire to be outside in nature or my allergies.

I love spring.

Cherry blossom macro portraits with olloclip and a makeshift desktop studio

Around the last year of graduate school, I came down with the "sniffles". For weeks I had itchy, watery eyes, a stuffy nose, and I sneezed almost incessantly. It impacted my school work, and my friend insisted I take a trip to the school's medical centre. I was shocked, too, when she told me that I had seasonal allergies. I grew up in the British West Indies. I never heard of anyone who had allergies to anything.

Every I get the sneezing, nasal itch and drooling, itchy eye-watering, "sniffly" allergies. I love the Spring but hate my bodies reaction to it. That doesn't stop me from doing what I love—walking outdoors, enjoying nature coming to life after many months of dreary grey. Of course, I pay for it later.

The building grounds crew were clipping off low hanging branches from the trees right outside the entrance. I asked, and they cut off a small bunch for me to take.

By: Khürt Williams - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I set up a small "desktop studio" using two sheets of 11x14" paper. One layer was laid flat on the desk, and the other was set against the cubicle's wall. The branch was placed on the paper and illuminated directly above the fluorescent light installed at the desk.

I had a lot of trouble securing the iPhone. I wanted to make sure focusing was as sharp as possible. This was challenging given the shallow depth of field of the macro lenses. I didn't have a tripod, so I improvised. I stuck a bent business card into the slot in my Kenu car iPhone holder. After a great deal of trial and error, I was able to get the setup stabilised. I used the digital zoom feature of Camera+ to check that my focus was as sharp as possible. To be sure, I used the 5-second shutter timer on Camera+ to reduce any potential camera shake when I tapped the on-screen shutter release.

By: Khürt Williams - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The following set of images were taken with the Olloclip 10X and 15X macro lens attachments for the iPhone 5. The images were exported to the iOS camera roll1 and then imported into Photogene to remove a scratch on my iPhone lens2. Once the scratch was removed, the images were exported to Flickr. This was to ensure I had a backup of the images before moving on. I then did another export to the iOS camera roll and imported images into Mextures.

By: Khürt Williams - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In Mextures, I applied some of the formulas from the Summer Formula's pack to create the final result. What do you think of the results?


  1. I realised later that I could have exported the images directly from Camera+ to Photogene. 
  2. The scratch shows up as a purple dot in every photo. Quite annoying but easy to remove with the "Heal" tool in Photogene.