Saturday, July 24, 2010

Macrology Resumes

Macrology is a term invented by a friend of mine, Mike who is also equally as crazy as I am in macro photography. Interestingly, when I was getting obsessed, deep into the macro world about a year ago, I suddenly decided to pull out the plug temporarily and stop macro altogether. As you may have already noticed, my blog was suddenly void from macro images, namely insects and bugs for more than half a year already. I even took a drastic measure, selling off my macro lens, but another more convincing reason was to fund my 11-22mm wide angle lens, just before my trip to Phuket.

Nonetheless, one fact is made clear, I have always loved macrology, and now, after half year drought of macro hunting, I am making a return.

This spider was actually quite huge, with its legs spread out, the length was probably as long as my palm. However, it was hanging high above the tree levels. I used the live view, and stretched my 50mm lens out to capture this shot.

About a week ago, Benten (yes, we call this friend by the name Benten) organized a small macro outing amongst the usual macro kakis. Earlier this morning, we made our way into FRIM at Kepong, and started macro hunting. I must say that I was really looking forward to this outing, and more importantly getting my hands on macro again. The inner me has an itch for macro. I woke up at crazy 6 something in the morning, got out of house at 7am, took a LRT to Tasik Selatan for an exchange to KTM taking me all the way to Kepong. Useless and unreliable are the words to describe, Malaysian public transport, I had to wait for nearly half an hour for a KTM, and because of that I was a little late for the appointment with the gang at 8.30am.

Damselfly, easily found near ponds, or places with water.

The usual hunts would be spiders. Spiders are definitely much easier to spot, and nail down, since most of them stay very still. Besides spider, there were grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and many other tiny bugs and creatures all around for us to capture. I shall try not to overflood this place with insects, which I acknowledge the fact that some of you have certain repulsion towards small creatures. Therefore, I shall just select the few photos worthy of mention, especially the few spiders that I have not seen and photographed before.

Ant or spider? It is actually an Ant Mimic Spider.

A different type of Ant Mimic Spider. This spider lives its whole life, lying, and pretending to be an ant. The purpose is probably for protection, since walking along a colony of ants can be safe and protected from other predators. Another reason could be disguising as ants to get close enough so they can devour them. In order to mimic an ant, this type of spider has to raise its front two legs, hence they walk only on 6 legs, pretending that their front two legs are antennas like normal ants. The arrangement of the eyes also have been altered.

Possibly the nest/web of the Ant Mimic Spider. This was an extremely difficult situation to photograph. The leaf was curved inwards, and pointing the macro lens near to get close up shots, meaning that you would have closed in the paths of lighting. If you fire the flash from top or side, the light would not reach the inner leaf. To counter this problem, I positioned my flash (holding it wirelessly with one hand) close to one side of my lens, and let it fire side by side with the lens. Hence, the flash entered the leaf through a very small opening, but adequate to achieve a decently even spread of light inside the leaf. Hence, I got this shot of the Ant Mimic Spider in its natural habitat.

I have yet to find out what kind of spider this is. However, this has got to be one of the meanest looking spiders I have seen so far. The shell-like thing at the back was quite scary.

Insect macro photography is probably one of the very few areas of photography which requires more technical mastery over artistic sense. To be able to produce a decent macro photograph, you must have at least understood and have a certain amount of control over the shutter speed, aperture and ISO of the camera, know the concept of depth of field, and develop methods of lighting your subjects. Focusing also has become a crucial factor, in cases of extreme magnification, auto-focus on the lens may become rather useless, and you have to rely on your ability to focus manually. Your overall sense of technical side in photography must be adequate, or else you will find yourself coming home with blurry, dark photos. Hence, it was no surprise that one of the main reason I jumped so deep into macro previously, was to improve my technical control in photography. Through uncountable sessions of macrology, I must say I have come a long way since I first wondered which F-number should I use to photograph a small red ant.

Compmac said this was a "ghost" spider, which was quite common, though I have not encountered one before. I think the blue shiny fur was rather cool.

So what did I do this time in terms of photo-techniques? Not much really, I did not employ anything new. This was not a session of experimentation, this was more like a session to familiarize myself all over again, and orientate my inner mind to concentrate in macrology. Most of the techniques and tips listed below have been blogged before.

1) I use Olympus E-520 with 50mm F2 Macro lens and an external flash FL-36R which is capable of wireless TTL control.

2) Full time manual focus, set to near or full magnification. I do not turn the focus ring, instead I fixed it to the closest focus the lens offers (for 1 to 1 magnification), and slowly rock myself back and forth until I see the subject appearing sharp and in focus on my viewfinder.

3) Full manual settings. General camera settings: ISO200, F11-14, shutter speed 1/50sec to 1/80 sec. Aperture needs to be stopped down, in order to gain more depth of field.

4) Wireless TTL-Flash. You will definitely need flash for macro photography, especially taking photos of tiny insects at high magnification. I hold my camera on my right hand, and the external flash on my left hand. I position the flash and fire it wirelessly so that the light comes from the side of the subject, not from front, or directly top. The advantage of this technique is to have a more natural light, and shadow profile on the subject that made it look either more flattering or 3-dimensional.

5) And of course, some serious yoga body bending moves, and ninja stealth breathing methods are also required to make certain shots of some insects posing at extremely awkward positions possible.

A type of fly?

Catch of the day. Literally.

Thanks Compmac, Mike and Benten for making this session happen. This was more like a session to bring myself back to macro again. Do stay tuned, as I immerse myself into the world of macrology again. Yes, I have always loved macro, I have never given up on it, and now I am back for more.

Do tell me what you think of macrology !!


  1. That's some really mean looking spiders you have there. *gulp*

  2. hey jasonmumbles,
    a few only la, the rest are rather cute ahahha

  3. Beautiful! Olympus should get you to conduct a macro workshop!

  4. hey david,
    thanks for the vote of confidence. However, I am still at a learning stage, a lot is still needed before I can conduct a workshop !!

  5. Wow.. impressive macro shoots.. seriously..really nice.. good job..really need to learn someday from you~ =)

  6. hey Oyama,
    Thanks man !! I am more than willing to share what I know with you. Macro has always been my favourite.

  7. We need to have another session in the very near future...