The Friday night had been quite an exciting and exhilarating one. Since approximately a week ago, there a guy whom I have known to respect and admire in Macro Photography, particularly dealing with Malaysian spiders and insects, Amir called up an outing to his favourite spider hunting spot: Kemensah. I have been there twice before (once during the day, and once during the night), and I knew how good this session was going to be. The facts that made this outing truly extraordinary was going into a real forest reserve, and doing it in the middle of the night. I know, what better way to spend a Friday night right?
Why at Night?
Since I have been returning to macrology how can I say no to such an opportunity. However, shooting spiders and insects at night was not exactlt a thing that everyone does, or would choose to do. There were many species of spiders that are nocturnal, and only come out hunting at night time. Hence, going in at night opens up an entirely different world of insects for us to photograph, with many, many unimaginable possibilities, things that we normally would not be able to witness during the day time. Nonetheless, shooting at night itself is a rather dangerous activity, because the forest was quite dark and we relied solely on tiny beams from our torchlights to light our walking paths. Risks apart, photography during the night time typically yielded dark background, or the more popularly used phrase 'sea of black". Daytime shooting produces more realistically natural looking photographs, blending into the background colours and natural lighting. At night, the only source of light illuminating the subjects was our external flash, which often resulted in overblown or very harsh looking outputs.
Along the trail that we took, I actually saw a swarm of fireflies dancing around the darkness of the night merrily !! Goodness gracious, this was the first time I have seen fireflies since God knows when. The joy of seeing them was indescribable, it was the time I put down my camera and just stared at them for minutes. Their sight was so magical, so pure and so gentle. Unfortunately, they were going to be extinct, something we humans are at fault due to our greed which led to the destruction of everything.
I hate leeches. The first time I was in Kemensah I was attacked by one, and the spot on my leg which it bit actually kept bleeding for weeks. Apparently leeches have this enzymes that stops your blood for clogging, and it stays with you for ages. Last night, I had TWO bites. I did not even realized I was attacked until I saw my socks on my right foot covered in blood. It did not feel a thing at all which my blood was being sucked, but once they were full, probably they just unattached themselves merrily. My blood was flowing out non stop and it was not a pretty sight.
The Jungle Experience
Apart from macrology, which is an important element in my Shutter Therapy sessions, the whole outing itself was quite a good experience. The trail from the main path leading to one of the waterfalls in Kemensah took us three hours of slow walk, with frequent stops for shooting spiders and insects. It was roughly 3km walk, up and down rather slippery and muddy slopes. It is not an everyday thing I would decide to go into the jungle, and be one with nature. This particular forest reserve is quite well preserved, and the fact that you still see fireflies around was a testimony to that. Blending into the atmosphere of the jungle in the middle of the night, breathing in the fresh air, doing a little bit of exercise (cardio counted? hmmm) and yeah, just being there itself, were quite amazing and fulfilling. Screw pubs, clubs or parties on Friday night. The jungle is da place.
All photographs were taken with Olympus E-520 with 50mm Macro lens. I did not use any special technique for this session, but the one which I have employed during the previous night shooting. I mounted the torchlight on top my external flash, which I held with my left hand. The torchlight hunts for subjects in the dark, and at the same time, the external flash attached to it will be pointed in the similar direction as where the torchlight was beaming. On my right hand would be my camera, and I snap my shots single handedly, while my left had was holding the external flash + torchlight combo most of the time, firing the flash off the camera being controlled wirelessly. The advantage of this technique is obvious, if I can see the subject (spider or insect) clearly through my viewfinder, it means that the external flash is pointing at the right way, hence illuminating the subjects properly.
My general camera settings are:
1) Full manual focus
2) Manual exposure control: shutter speed 1/80sec to 1/100sec, F-11-16, and ISO200
3) Off camera flash controlled wirelessly, set to TTL -0.3 to -0.7 EV with a al-cheapo stofen bounce diffuser cap on all the time.
With my macro set up, the advantages are: 1) I can hold three things with two hands, external flash, camera and torchlight, and still be able to work comfortably 2) My off camera flash being held at one hand allowed the flash to reach very difficult places, such as under the leaf (which normal mounted on camera flash cannot reach), create dramatic flash effects such as side lighting for a more 3-dimensional output. The disadvantages are: 1) Harsh lighting, with insufficient diffusing. The diffusing cap itself was not doing a very efficient job 2) Single handed shooting, can cause extra shake and vibration.
A Friday Night Well Spent
It was one heck of a Friday night. We started to gather around the Zoo Negara entrance at 8pm, and moved deeper towards the back of Zoo Negara at 830pm. We started the walk into the forest following the trail that led to the waterfall at 9pm. It was around 1.30am that we finally got out from the forest, and headed to a nearby mamak place for supper. I reached home close to 3am in the morning. I sounded like a party animal right? Just minus the party of course. Throughout the night which seemed to stretch forever, I got the chance to spend some quality time and catch up with friends from same camera faith, mostly using Olympus gears.
Furthermore, there are some really great Olympus macro enthusiasts out there, who have created their own DIY diffusing techniques and are able to produce some amazing results with their improved lighting. Walking in a ground of Olympus users and macroo-crazy people somehow reminded me of my place, and that I am part of a community which is real and very supportive. Add the nature drama to that, with the jungle-feel and fireflies phenomena, I think this was Shutter Therapy at one of its best forms, ever.
And the best part was, the weekend has just begun.