Mostly nature and photojournalism of amateur standard.

By: Amir Ridhwan

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Saturday, 17-Feb-2007 12:38 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The Tetragnathidae family of spiders Part 2

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Long-jawed Tetraghanata

This genus is usually found in secondary and primary forests. They weave a web that seems like incomplete and cling at the center like a dead twig. In the entire family, the Tetraghanata has the most apparent long jaw. The two pairs of front most legs are usually stretched forward to demonstrate the size. The one above built its web just above my father-in-law’s pond in Batu Pahat. The web spread horizontally and catches any flying insect that are going for a dip, notably pregnant female mosquitoes.

This Tetraghanata demissa below was seen in my father’s orchard in Lepar Hilir, Pahang. The web looked nothing impressive but a closer inspection revealed this guy who looks like a dry twig. The web was shadowed by a large tree where the spokes were anchored. While trying to get an angle with better lighting, this spider moved away and clanged to a tiny branch.

It seems that this genus is quite rare to find, probably often being killed by human because of their fearsome appearence.

Golden Orb Weaver Nephila

The largest and most spectacular of this family is the Nephila. It weaves a golden colored web that can span a diameter of more than a meter. A colony of Nephila can cover almost an entire tree with their webs which occasionally trap even birds and bats, though actually they don't actually function as a unit. The female is about the size of an adult’s palm while the male is much smaller- about the size of a bead. These majestic creatures are fearsome and strike terror to airborne insects no matter what size they are.

My first encounter was with a Nephila pilipes in Zoo Negara. I was in an outing organized by Photo Malaysia where I saw one hanging on an enormous web. The web was low and it was interesting that no one seems to care about it. What even more amazing was that a dragonfly just happened to plunge into the web and immediately got ensnared by the giant spider.

The next encounter happened just a week after by a stream near Tanjung Malim. It was not far from a picnic site and I wondered how the web survived undisturbed. Probably most people did not bother to look up to the tree as the web was quite high up. I used a telephoto lens to reach it and fortunately there was enough light under the canopy.

Here you can see the male. It was so tiny in contrast to the female judging by the size of the web mesh. The male sit way at the bottom of the web. When mating the male will offer a small catch wrapped in silk to the female. While she is eating, he will crawl on her and deliver its sperm. The female will nest in a hole beneath the ground where the egg sac is delivered.

All images was taken using Olympus E-500 with Zuiko 35mm macro lens. Nephila shots in Tanjung Malim were taken using Sigma 55-200mm lens. The sightings of these magnificent critters is quite rare so hold on to your camera whenever you go ourdoor.

Saturday, 10-Feb-2007 18:09 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Tetragnathidae family of spider Part 1

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I know 4 genera of the Tetragnathidae family of spiders- the golden orb weaver, the silver orb weaver, the leaf curling spider and the long-jawed spider. Spiders of this family can be found all over the world with as many as 7 genera in South Africa alone. In total there are at least 52 genera of this large family scattered from the tropical forests to subterranean grasslands. The great thing about the 4 above is that I have identified them in Malaysia and captured their photos which I am sharing them with you here.

Tetragnathidae is a family of orb weavers similar to Araneidae. One major difference between the two families is while Araneidae would wrap its pray in silk before biting, Tetragnathidae bites before wrapping. The powerful extended jaws which are the hallmark of this family would crush the prey. Venom is injected into the prey’s body to immobilize it and after the prey is wrapped, dissolving enzyme is injected.

The Leaf Curling Spider. A member of the family.

We can say there are two kinds of Tetragnathidae- the long-jawed and the orchard spiders. Both look differently but closely related. The long-jawed can be distinguished by the large chelicerae (fangs) which in some species can be longer than the cephalothorax. The orchard spiders’ long fangs are somewhat better concealed hence they look like common orb weavers of the Araneidae family. All Tetragnathidae spiders have 8 eyes clustered at the front side of the head. They build webs to catch preys but with much less radii compared to most other families including the Araneidae.

Leaf Curling Spider Phonognathas

Phonognathas spend most of its time in a retreat constructed by curling a leaf and bind it with silk. Once a stray flying insect got caught in the web, it will dash and inject venom to pacify the victim. The prey is curled into a ball and will be carried back to the retreat before being consumed. You can say that they are pretty shy creatures since they spend most of the time in the hideout and go out mostly to fetch the prey for a few seconds before having its meal indoors.

The Phonognathas here were photographed in a public park near Bandar Pusat Puchong. My wife would go for the weekly jogging routine and I would spend the morning hunting for arachnids. One lucky day I found this little guy in action and went frantic to get as many shots as possible. Most were rendered unusable due to shake and out of focus.

Silver Orb Weaver aka Orchard Spider Leucauge

Also known as the orchard spider, the Leucauge has an abdomen of a peculiar hunchback shape. The long abdomen is striped in several colors while the cephalothorax is monotone. Tibia (comparable to calf) is long and hairy. They spin silver-colored webs up to 2 feet in diameter, usually in an almost horizontal angle.

The Leucauge dromedaria here was photographed in Taman Soga in Batu Pahat. I have seen one about 2” long which is quite large in the standards of Malaysian spiders. When I first sighted this fabulous creature, I was overjoyed since it was the weirdest looking spider I have ever seen. In the next few hours I identified at 5 more webs within the area and came to understand its population distribution there.

Young Leucauge also spin webs to catch prey. They paralyze it before spin silk to turn the meal into a ball. I have seen one in my apartment backyard too in Puchong, stalking among an ixora shrubs. The one below was taken in Cameron Highlands. You can spot the youngs between stalks of shrubs, sometime on a stalk connected to its web. They are there, if you just take a closer look at them.

All images were taken using Olympus E-500 with Zuiko 35mm macro lens under natural light. Next I will feature the Long-Jaw Spider and the magnificent Golden Orb Weaver, the largest member of the family.

Friday, 2-Feb-2007 13:42 Email | Share | | Bookmark
A walk among the devotees

spinning kavadi. click here to see it spins
kavadi bearer
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I had a dilemma. The 1st of February is a public holiday for 2 occassions- the celebration of Federal Territory and Thaipusam. Being more hooked to photojournalism by the day, I have to choose which to go as both ceremonies will be in the morning. After some talk with Boogey, we quickly decided that Thaipusam would be the more interesting one since it is unique. Being overly excited, Boogey wants to get there before the dawn which I initially objected. Without the firepower of a speedlite and being impaired with a noise-prone 4/3 CCD, I will be helpless until enough light can surface. Nevertheless I managed to captured some interesting photos as the maiden rays penetrate through the morning sky.

We arrived early morning when it was still dark. Even then, the area surrounding the temple was bustling with activities where crowds started to mass towards the main entrance. There was no way for me and Boogey to possibly stick together so we split and go different ways- I went to the river where the piercing ceremony was taking place while Boogey climbed to the cave and document the removal of kavadis. This way we can cover more action while he can get some cardio exercise along the way.

Behold the power I unleash upon this realm. From this day forward shamans shall rule the land and purge away all traces or radiance and purity.

Yo Dude!

A young devotee with milk offering.

An elder pulling a cart using hooks buried in his back.

The elder above was entering the temple compound when I shot this image. At the time I have abandoned all hope to climb the staircase due to super heavy congestion in the visitors' lane. Perhaps along time ago it was this sight that gave Samy Velly the idea of how lucrative the toll business can be.

One way to achieve 100 years of age is by drinking 100+.

Losing control.

A young devotee fulfilling his pledge.

Sorry but this time there is no Miss Thaipusam contest. This is an event that every photographers should go no matter what kind of camera you have. I would rate this event as Class A. Hmm... as to illustrate the scale, Florafest is Class C while FRU Demo is Class B. This is certainly so much better compared to mundane dancing and generic parade. Boogey has very good images from the inside of the cave including footages of how they remove the kavadi:

Equipment used: As always the Olympus E-500 and Zuiko 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens. Only the piercing footage was using Sigma 55-200mm to get as close as possible to the action. Total 559 images taken in medium-compression JPG.

Sunday, 28-Jan-2007 07:14 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Florafest 2007

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It has been quite a while since I last post an entry on macro. Since the macro war seems to be going in a direction favourable to me, I can have some liberty to try other areas of photography. By the way, Ikelah's alliance with granpa has fallen apart and Boogey's kingdom is being overrun by plagues. Another possible warlord, P5, is trying to enhance his prowess by getting a bionic leg.

Since the FRU encounter, I have been craving to have another try on shooting events and crowds. The Florafest in Putrajaya has opened an opportunity for me to give this another shot. It was quite a crowd there but somehow I think the event could have been better managed. 3 important aspects in such an event need to be addressed more seriously- parking, food stall and toilet. I think this fair suffered from lack of promotion as well.

Ok, this is what you imagine in a florafest kinda thing.

I know the background is a bit sux. There were too many people lining up along the path and I had to declare a good spot before all is taken. I found one where I'll be facing the lighted side of the parade but has to settle with the not-so-artistic background. I wonder how the rest can shoot good photos by sitting at the shadowed side. They probably must be really experienced and have state-of-the-art equipment to overcome the backlight from morning sun. Hmmm... must get myself one of those. See below? These are the pros stationed across me.

This is from the Sabah team. I really like their concept which was something about nature. All of the band players grew vines on their outfit. Must have waited too long before being allowed to march. The music they played is unlike other generic school band stuff. I don't remember clearly but can recall the symphony being influenced by a lot of flute.

I was in the midst of a shootingspree when an SMS from Boogey arrived. Oh yes, he's down with denggue fever for over a week. The previous entry I made on him was supposed to impress ladies but apparently attracted female aedes mosquitos. I'm not supposed to divulge what his text message was. By the way, below are images somebody asked me to snap. Let's go for Miss Florafest contest and vote for the finalists!!!

Exhibit 1

Vote for your favourite and we'll crown Miss Florafest after Thaipusam. If anyone has any reservation on voting female images due to purported sexual exploitations, please take it from technical photographic point of view. For the rest, the criteria is open for your interpretation. Afterall, we are just honoring them for doing a good job. Oh, we don't vote the organizer though.

Miss Florest crown is without doubt Exhibit 1 by a landslide!!! The next competitior didn't even come close, whoever she is. Thanks for the voters. She surely appreciates it.

Friday, 19-Jan-2007 17:06 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Photography 101

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Photography is a beautiful field whether you are building a career around it or just being a plain amateur. There are so many areas one can specialize- wildlife, macro, landscape, architechture, portrait, sports, journalism and so forth. Each are of specialization requires different kind of skills and equipment. For example, if you are going into macro photography, you will need some macro capability equipment either a macro lens, reversal ring, extension tube or close-up lens. A ring flash and focusing fail can certainly be helpful. To help illustrate this further, let's look at a case study.

OK, see the photographer above? We can call him Boogey. He’ll be our host to explore the world of amateur photography. When this photo was taken he was handling the 28-300mm f4L IS USM lens on a Canon 350D. What a big lens on such an outdated camera model. While common people like us might wondering on the logic behind it, I believe Boogey must have a good reason to do so.

Take a closer look at the posture where you can see the trademark of a serious photographer in the midst of producing a masterpiece. Now if you ever think of hauling a 1.6kg lens, do get a tripod. Almost all lens weighing above 1kg comes with a tripod collar and lens makers include such thing for a reason. They want you to plant the lens on the tripod instead of hand-holding it all the time. There is actually nothing wrong about holding a white lens with bare hands, only that you may get sweaty on the forehead which can be hazardous to digital equipments such as a DSLR.

Any event is incomplete without a photographer. It may be a friend, relative or hired professional but they all share a common purpose which is to immortalize the magical moments. Here is Boogey taking photos at a family event- the wedding of his sister cousin somewhere near Maran. One of the best thing about shooting events is it gives us the power to capture beautiful candid moments. This time the sweat has nothing to do with him hand-holding the camera but instead showing how much he was absorbed by the shooting spree.

Having a photographer eye will help you to identify a subject and turn it into a piece of art. Things that seems common to ordinary eyes can be crafted into a mesmerizing image by the creative photographer. One might see a stray branch in the middle of the road as a common sight but cleary Boogey sees something creative in it.

Below is a how you can take a macro shot using a non macro lens. You have to go as close as the minimal focusing distance which will give the most magnification factor. To get a good bokeh (blurred background) you will need to open up the aperture as wide as possible while retaining the DOF. A high shutter speed will be helpful since any slight vibration from your hand will be magnified by the lens causing blurred image. Be careful not to get a cluttered background as it can distract the attention away from the subject.

You can see the images taken by Booget at

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