Mostly nature and photojournalism of amateur standard.

By: Amir Ridhwan

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Sunday, 17-Dec-2006 09:22 Email | Share | Bookmark
The Race of Macro Age

Towards the end of the year, 2 of my brothers are gearing up into macrophotography. Ikelah got himself a long-awaited toy- the Nikon BR2 reversal ring set and Boogey is a proud owner of a Sigma zoom macro. Ikelah's career life must be really boring as he seems to be possessed by macromania ever since.

I have always love macrophotography. Some 15 years back I confiscated an old Ricoh XR500 from Pang5 which came with a standard 50mm lens. I saved some money and got a 70-200mm Vivitar lens with 1:4 macro for RM200. How cheap lenses were those days. My current 35mm macro lens costs RM780 and took some 3 months of approval process from the Finance Minister. It took me about 3-4 weeks to get comfortable using it and even now I am still finding new ways to harness the full potential of my baby arsenal.

Since Ikelah has gone to a macro rampage on daily basis at his blog, I feel the obligation to bring some justice to users of dedicated macro lens. Boogey is not a threat yet as I suspect he's still recycling old images from his blog back in April. So I took a peek at my cache of unpublished photos and selected a few in an attempt of taunting them. Below is a dragonfly taken at a public park at around 3pm. It's my favourite time to shoot macros due to ample light. I never seems to be able to get a perfect texture of its compound eyes due to hotspots and reflection. Perhaps a polarizer would do.

This wasp was taken at Ikelah's house during the Aidilfitri homecoming. It never stay perch for long hence I couldn't get anything better than this one shot. Among the biggest challenge to capture flying insects is to get them in a static position so accurate focusing can be done. Wasps, hornets and bees are among the most notorious when it comes to staying put. Even worse is the fact that some of the flying insects such as the honeybee has chronic hypothermia and keep on shivering at all time. At a shallow DOF, this can make autofocusing tricky and you will need a very high shutter speed to freeze the motion.

Most of the time I prefer to use natural lighting. I suppose a better way is to use reflectors and external flashguns but that will mean extra encumbrance and not to mention blowing a hole in the pocket. Yet we have to improvise whenever the preferred technique is not feasible such as in the one below. When I found these two ladylovebirds, dark clouds are gathering in the sky hence cutting my light source. There was no way I can immortalize their intimate moments using natural light, so I poped up the built in flash and set the aperture at f/22. Distance must be impeccable to ensure 2 things: far enough that the flash can reach them without creating hotspots and close enough to document as much details. A diffuser would certainly comes in handy.

Another photo taken at Ikelah's place back then was this creeping ladybird. It was shot at early morning while waiting to feed Ikelah's cats. Light was not that intense therefore much detail is lost especially at the darker face of the bug. From technical perspective this is not a very good shot but I just love the color contrast and knowing that this is the best I could do as a poor macro photographer.

One of the compulsory virtues for a macro photographer is patience. You will need even more of that if the kind of equipment you have is purely basic. To photograph insects in the wild requires enormous patience and it begins with finding a spot to shoot. Sometimes an outing can turn up to be a total waste of time due to bad weather or simply bad luck. Once you have identified and narrowed down to a particular subject, you will need to make a silent approach to get within striking distance. It will help if you have a longer focal length but with my 35mm, I really got to creep very close to the subject. For easily startled bugs, you may only get 1-2 shots before they whisk off into the bushes or fly away beyond reach.

The fly below was infact quite cooperative. I manage to get as close as a few inches to it before opening a salvo of 7-8 shots. Generally flies are considered easy to capture. Bees are very very challenging!

I am not sure how many species of flies in Malaysia but there are basically 3 types that I mostly photograph. The one above is a giant fly with length of about 1 inch. It is much larger than the common housefly and mostly found to fly alone. Another is the hoverfly with eyes much larger than its head. The one below is normally found in bushes seeping nectar and quite common.

Hoverflies are abundant and usually dwell suburban bushes. The one below has vivid eyes but there some with plain black or grey eyes. You can distinguish hoverflies by how impossibly huge their eyes are relative to their head.

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