I always save the best for the last. In this entry’s case, I have saved the best for an entirely separate entry. During my bug-hunt while testing the Olympus Zuiko 35mm macro lens, I found this mean looking monster by luck. Yes, Chong, Jason and Miao, if you do not call this luck I do not know what it is. Suddenly out of nowhere, a merry fly decided to join in the fun. The fly unfortunately
By far, this green spider was the most evil and dangerous looking spider that I have come across in the park. The spider was rather viscous too, and the moment the fly got tangled by her web, she wasted no time and (I suspected) injected her venom to stun the prey. She left the fly alone for a short moment. Obviously the fly struggled to get free, then just a matter of seconds, the movements slowed down and gradually came to a stop. The venom must be kicking in, then as the fly stopped struggling, the spider came back to it, and with deadly speed and precision the fly was mummified. As I was leaving the spider was sucking the poor little fly dry.
It may be something spectacular to photograph and test my macro capabilities on, but the scene was unexpectedly gruesome. I have just witnessed a spider mercilessly murdered and draining the life away from an innocent fly. This could not have been any different from a lion devouring a deer. Laws of nature, circle of life. The strong preying on the weak. So much for us humans being on top of the food chain, interestingly venoms from certain species of spiders can kill us too.
Looking at the pictures, it does seem simple and straight to the point kind of shots, but for beginners like me, it was not easy. Jason once told me macro is too easy, hence he brushed it aside since he found no challenge in doing it. My God, to me it was one of the most challenging tasks using the camera.
1) Composition was not easy.
There are distractions to minimize, background to consider and the placements of the subjects to bring out the attention. It is even more challenging to take all these into consideration in the matter of seconds before clicking the shutter, and sometimes those few seconds is the only chance you have or you miss the shot. I do admit there is a lot of work to be done to improve my compositions here. I tried getting as low as I can to the eye level of the spider, and avoid shooting top-bottom shots.
2) Focusing difficulties.
Forget autofocus, it will never focus on the exact place you want it to focus. Though I am comfortable using manual focus now, but everything just went against me as I was taking the shot. The gentle wind rocking the web, wobbling the spider and the fly constantly threw them out of focus. The spider was constantly moving, causing motion blur, and I could not fix my focus tightly. Just as I got my focus right, before clicking the shutter, I felt a sting on my right thumb as a mosquito was happily sucking my blood. I had to retrieve from the viewfinder and squat that little vampire flat, and oops.. I have to redo the whole thing again.
3) Lighting issues.
As you can see in the pictures, there were serious highlight and shadow problems. Getting the right amount of light in was one challenge, getting it on the right places is another. A more even lighting effect would be desirable, probably using macro ring flash could help solve this problem.
4) Steadying the shots.
The most interesting subjects will usually appear at most unlikely places that you have to bend your knees and bodies in impossible positions just to inch closer and closer to your shot. Standing (or squatting) in such ungodly manner, it was difficult not to shiver and you will feel your body rocking back and forth each time you puff that breath in.
5) Getting close.
Finding the spiders was hard enough, but trying to close in your lens to them without scaring them is even worse. I read some useful tips here, for example avoid casting shadows on your subjects, and move as slowly as you can with no rapid motion towards them.
6) Oh and I have spider-phobia. Hate those little bummers.
I have not elaborated much on the Olympus Zuiko 35mm macro yet. I think that for a budget lens, it performs incredibly well. All my shots come out tack sharp (provided having spot on focus) and the amount of details being captured in the photo was just stunning. It beats the crap out of my other usual macro alternatives, and it is marginally sharper than what my current kit lens could produce. Above all, the lens is light and really compact (the world’s smallest macro lens for DSLR) allowing me more flexibility to move around and compose my shots. A lot of people may have complaints about the fly-by-wire manual focusing, but I find it nothing troublesome at all, yet it allowed for really precise focusing.
On the shortcomings, I do feel that the length of 35mm is not long enough to comfortably shoot the subjects from a distance. And the widest aperture of F3.5 was just not fast enough to have this lens as a portrait lens either. For macro work however, I used smaller than F11 aperture so it the not-so-wide aperture should not be of any major concern here.
All in all, I love the lens!! God help me, I am falling more and more in love with macro. Of course there is a lot more I could do with macro besides just insects and tiny bugs, but hey, lets just save those ideas for future attempts.
Robin is now officially, bug-friendly.