Your Photos, Your Own Style!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this article finds you in the pinkest of health, and I also hope that you will all have an awesome macro year ahead for 2015!

A mating pair of "Deceptive" Coraltails- Ceriagrion fallax pendleburyi ♂♀

Happy New Year guys! May this year be a great Macro Year for all!

I have recently received many comments from friends and family about the contents of my blog and also my photos; thank you so much for your kind feedbacks, inquiries and also suggestions! *The “Comment” Section of Pixels Dimension is disabled due to the number of advertisement craps I got everyday, please feel free to look for me via email (pixelsdimension@yahoo.com) ya 🙂

One of the main comments I have received for the year 2014 is by Nature and Wildlife enthusiasts who wanted to appreciate the wonderful biodiversity of Malaysia without the photography “jargon”; and we are glad to be able to bring you Wildlife in Malaysia, a new website build specifically for such a purpose, enjoy!

Apart from that, I have received constructive comments and critics on the way I photograph my Macro Subjects, which I intend to write a bit about today.

An Oval St. Andrew Cross Spider wrapping prey- Argiope aemula ♀

It is important to have your own style of presenting your Macro Photos, mine is all about showing the behaviour and details of the subject, and pair them with useful information. What’s yours?

As with all kinds of art-related work, creativity and style are some of the most important things that gets your work noticed, and as an artist you are not supposed to copy others, but strive to display your masterpieces in your own, unique way. There is simply no right or wrong in this, so long as you yourself are satisfied with your work.

That said, there are pretty much two ways of photographing Macro subjects, namely Artistic and Scientific shots, as covered in Macro Photography- Scientific and Artistic Shots.

Silver-Spotted Sun Spider- Neogea nocticolor ♀

A Scientific shot of a Silver-Spotted Sun Spider (Neogea nocticolor). This shot here shows you exactly how the spider looks like in detail, also including the unique patterns of the spider web as well as the web supports (called Stabilimentum)

An Elf dragonfly- Tetrathemis irregularis ♂

This shot focuses more on the eye colours of the dragonfly. Although beautiful, at this angle it is almost impossible to really tell what dragonfly this is.

In short, Scientific Macro Photographs focus more on showing the full details of the entire insect, spider etc. whereas Artistic ones emphasizes more on specific parts of the subject; Scientific photographs are useful when it comes to learning about the subjects themselves, whereas Artistic photographs amplify the aesthetics of the subject.

Although both are unique ways of capturing subjects; in the World of photography, Artistic shots are obviously more popular and attractive to viewers, and many were wondering why I don’t usually take Artistic-styled Macro Photographs.

Fishing Spider- Hygropoda sp. ♂ (?)

Likely a male Fishing Spider (Hygropoda sp. ♂) . Personally I love taking Scientific shots more as there are more things to write about, and ultimately the viewer will take way some knowledge aside from just enjoying the photo.

If you know me in person, you would probably notice that I am not only excited about taking Macro Photographs, but also at sharing what I know about the subjects photographed, so that viewers actually learn something out of each photograph. Personally I have always believed that true appreciation of Mother Earth and Nature can only be achieved through learning and understanding; and I am pretty sure there are a lot of awesome Macro Photographers out there who share the same beliefs.

Still, don’t get me wrong, I actually like many of the Artistic shots out there, just that I don’t always see eye-to-eye with some Macro Photographers who take Artistic shots out of cruelty. Artistic shots are not easy to photograph, especially when subjects are moving about, so some prefer to take the “easy way out” by freezing or killing the subjects before taking shots, and the resulting photos are often impressive and attractive, especially to viewers who are oblivious to how the photos were taken.

Wide-Jawed Viciria- Viciria praemandibularis ♀

A female Wide-Jawed Viciria (Viciria praemandibularis). Natural, Artistic shots may be more challenging to capture, but it is not insurmountable, and definitely more humane.

The fame is of course hard to resist, and many Macro Photographers end up valuing their photos more than the lives of their subjects, turning into cold-blooded killers in the end, which is sad. I admit that I have tried this method several times and I couldn’t live with it, plus the shots look really unnatural.

Pentagon-Abdomen Crab Spider- Massuria angulata ♂

A male Pentagon-Abdomen Crab Spider (Massuria angulata). It doesn’t matter whether you are into Scientific or Artistic shots at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you enjoy what you are doing, and don’t torture or kill innocent subjects while you are at it. It is the humane, and right thing to do.

So, now you probably understand why I prefer taking Scientific shots over Artistic ones now. Of course, the style you opt for in the end depends on you yourself, but I would urge you to consider being more humane in getting your Macro Photographs. If people keep killing off their subjects, one day there will be nothing left for us to photograph and appreciate.

Personalization

Developing your own style will require a lot of time and practice, as you become exposed to the many types of elements that make great artworks, then only you opt for the ones that fancy you most. That said, there are many other more advanced, less common techniques that can be used to portray your skills and abilities, including UV Macro Photography and Macro Animations, which will be covered in upcoming articles, so please stay tune to those!

Reddish-Orange Tent Spider- Cyrtophora sp. ♀

A Reddish-Orange Tent Spider (Cyrtophora sp. ♀). Personalization is not just about your watermark, the way you portray your photographs are your signature as well.

Okay, I guess that’s it for this short article~ In an Artistic world of photography (not only on Macro), it is important, if not essential to have your own style of shooting, one that will attract and remind people of you whenever your photos are viewed. Of course, all these will take time to build up, but it is definitely something worth striving for in the long run; and although it is true that you should follow your own preferences, that doesn’t mean that you should totally ignore what others have to say: Constructive criticisms should be taken if it helps you to improve your skills, techniques and eventually photos.

Thank you for your time and until the next article, do take care ya! 🙂

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission. 

Pixels Dimension- My 20 Best Macro Photos of 2014!

Hello guys and girls! As the year 2014 is drawing to a close, I figured it would be a great time to summarize our progress over the year~

I remembered taking my first ever (horrible) macro shot about one and a half years ago, and started this website on June 2014. I have learnt a lot over this short period of time, both in terms of photography skills and also general knowledge on the wonderful creatures I’ve come across. The more I’ve learnt the more I come to appreciate Macro Photography and also our beautiful and priceless Nature.

One thing is for sure, I couldn’t have achieved any of this without the help and guidance of several humble and great Macro Gurus around the region; I also couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragements from friends, families and of course, the awesome viewers and readers here (Pixels Dimension has just break 3,500 views!)! Thank you very much for everything!   <3

Okay, without further ado, my top 20 favourite shots for year 2014! Photos are selected not only based on aesthetics, but also rarity of the moment and difficulty of the shot~ Please enjoy!

 


20. A Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) envenoming a frog

A Wagler's Pit Viper eating (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

How often do you see a Pit Viper in action? You don’t. They are often well camouflaged or are exceedingly hard and dangerous to reach in the wild. This shot was made possible thank to my cousin who happened to be a herpetologist. Note the large and frightening fangs of the viper!


19. An angry female Malayan Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus)

Angry Malaysian Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus ♀)

Liphistius Trapdoor Spiders are one of the most ancient spiders living on Earth today and are thus protected by Malaysian Laws. It has been reported that the females of these spiders are generally shy and will prefer flight than fight. Well, it certainly doesn’t apply for very large individuals, they have quite a temper, and will not hesitate to bite you! An uncommon behavioural shot, thus making to the Top 20~


  18. A mating pair of Stalk-eye Flies (Teleopsis sp.)

Stalk-eye Flies (Teleopsis sp.) mating

Stalk-eye Flies are a great wonder to many, thanks to their bizarre eyes! These flies were so exciting that BBC decided to document them in Malaysia. Although not exactly very rare, the long stalks and movements of these flies make them a big challenge to photograph. I only managed to get this shot by luck (plus a lot of cropping!)


 17. Finally, A Lanturn Bug (Zanna sp.)

Lantern Bug Nymph (Zanna sp.)

I was so touched when I was shown a Lantern Bug by Macro Sifus Zaidi Razak and Lee Hua Ming. I had a lot of troubles finding, let alone photographing Lantern Bugs before this, so I was happy to be able to photograph one, even if its a nymph! *Yes yes, I know a lot of photographers who shoots these bugs for breakfast haha :p


16. A Curved, Long-Spined Spider (Macracantha arcuata)

Curved Long-Spined Spider- Macracantha arcuata ♀

Pretty much a dream come true when I came across this unique and beautiful spider with my cousin. This spider needs no introduction, as it is definitely in every Macro Photographer’s wishlist! This series of photos have been used for several publications and competitions 🙂


15. A pair of Great Angle Head Lizards (Gonocephalus grandis)

Great Angle Head Lizard- Gonocephalus grandis ♂♀

Found a male and female Lizards of the same species at different locations on the same day! Shots made possible thanks to great luck, and not to mention my superb ninja photographic skills :p


14. An juvenile female Argiope doleschalli 

Cross Spider, web stabilimenta and exuvia- Argiope doleschalli  juv ♀

A powerful and informative image of a rarely seen St. Andrew Cross Spider, showing not only the spider, but also the thick, supportive structure (Stabilimenta) of the web, and also the remaining exoskeleton (exuvia) of the spider after moulting (ecdysis).


13. A Giant Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer) under UV illumination

Giant Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer) glowing under UV light

My first attempt at photographing using UV light, made possible by my cousin as I don’t even have a UV light @@ It was pretty fun, exciting and challenging at the same time as photos need to be taken with slow shutters.


12. A strikingly orange Giant Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius desultor

Liphistius desultor ♀

My first encounter with a large Trapdoor spider, I remembered how excited and afraid I was when photographing this ridiculously fast spider. I never knew Trapdoor spiders could grow so large, and become so different from their juvenile forms.


11. An adult female Double-Hump Yellow Tent Spider (Cyrtophora cylindroides) drinking water

Yellow Tent Spider (Cyrtophora cylindroides ♀) drinking

It is no myth that spiders may need to drink water from a water body instead of gaining all the hydration from bodily fluids of preys. However, we don’t often get to see them drinking, thus to me this is a valuable behavioural shot. This was also the first time I saw the adult form of this Tent Spider.


10. Two-in-one, a dragonfly and a millipede

2-in-1: Dragonfly and millipede

A natural find of two different organism in one frame, not something you come across all the time, unless if you cheat lol :p


9. A mother crab spider (Thomisus sp.) and her babies

White Crab Spider and spiderlings- Thomisus sp. ♀

This shot is my first in getting so close to photographing a mother spider guarding her spiderlings and egg sac. The resulting shot is made possible by stitching quite a number of photos together.


8. Malayan Forest Gecko (Cyrtodactylus pulchellus) removing water droplets from its eye

Malayan Forest Gecko removing water droplets- Cyrtodactylus pulchellus

A shot made possible by my herpetologist cousin. It is from this shot that I’ve learnt that geckos don’t have eyelids and need to use their tongues to remove water droplets on their eyes. Took an entire series of shots here and I hope I will be able to make it into an animation when I know how to lol!


7. A colourful Praying Mantis

Mantis

I have never really been very lucky with mantises since I often fail to see through their impressive camouflage. This magnificent-looking mantis was in fact seen by my girlfriend. From this shot I realized how cooperative mantises are at posing for photographs, and I really hope I will be able to find more in the future, especially dead-leaf, flower and perhaps even orchid mantises!


 6. A Trilobite Beetle (Ducitola hoiseni ?)

Hoi Sen's Trilobite Beetle (juv ♀)- Platerodrilus ruficollis/ Duliticola hoiseni (?)

I’ve heard of this amazing, ancient-looking Trilobite beetle but it is until my cousin stumbled upon one that I really got to see it upclosed! Its incredible that the beetle is actually very flat, with a tiny, retractable head! And most astonishing of all is that the beetle is named after my supervisor lol!


5. Fancy-loooking Caterpillar 

Caterpillar- In and Out

I am not really into caterpillars (kind of afraid of them to be honest) but this one was so exotic that I’ve decided to take some photographs. Apart from the unique form and vibrant colours, the caterpillar was eating and defecating at the same time- talk about efficiency!


4. A Funnel Web Spider (Macrothele cf. segmentata) in action

Funnel-Web Spider hunting a helpless grasshopper- Macrothele cf. segmentata ♀

Not exactly the most fancy-looking or rarest spiders around, but the funnel-web spider may potentially be the most venomous around the region. They spend most of the time in their burrows and its not at all easy to photograph them. Photograph made possible with the help of my cousins.


3. Alas, a cooperative Robberfly! 

Robberfly

If you knew me, you would understand how desperate I am at finding and photographing a Robberfly! I never really had much luck with these creatures although they are common and some of the popular among Macro Photographers around the globe. I only managed to find this one willing to pose a bit for me (very touched!). A simple shot, but very valuable to me.


2. A male Great Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus magnus)

Great Wide-Jawed Jumper- Parabathippus magnus ♂

Like the others, I have always fancied photographing Jumping Spiders, but I seldom get the chance to photograph large Jumping Spiders (easier to shoot). Found this spider around the garden and took a long time trying to photograph it; succeeded after plenty of tries, and I am glad that the spider was willing to pose abit for the camera 🙂


1. A male Greater Bluewing (Rhyothemis plutonia)

Greater Bluewing- Rhyothemis plutonia ♂

My most favourite Macro Photograph is also the most recent! A beautiful dragonfly such as this is not common to find, let alone photograph. The dull background kinds of ruin the shot, but in my opinion the striking colours really make this shot a winner~

 

Well, that’s it! My favourite Top 20 Macro Shots for the year 2014! Again the shots are not just based on aesthetic value, but inclusive of the rarity of subjects and the difficulty in getting the shots 🙂

I really look forward to 2015 (I guess all Malaysians do), and I hope that I will be able to improve my Macro skills further aside from being able to photograph more unique and exotic creatures- I still have a very long wishlist to fulfil haha! XD

Thank you for reading guys, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and may your 2015 be filled with healthy and prosperity~!

 

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission. 

5 Great Tips to Photographing Jumping Spiders

Greetings everyone, did you miss me? 🙂

Looks like the rainy season is here and has really brought about much problems to Malaysia 🙁 Hopefully the rain will stop soon so that things can go back to normal. Today I will be writing an article on Jumping Spiders (Salticidae)- a group of eight-legged arachnids that is most popular among Macro Photographers around the world.

Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper- Hyllus cf. semicupreus ♀

A female Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper (Hyllus cf. semicupreus), one of the most popular Jumping Spiders of Malaysia, thanks to its tame and cooperative nature.

I suppose Jumping Spiders (locally known as JS) need no real introduction due to their unique appearances and behaviour. Jumping Spiders are generally small spiders (<1.5cm) which, as you might have guessed, love to jump around. Blessed with 8 eyes- where the largest two are located on the face of the spider, these spiders not only excel at vision, but serve as excellent and impressive photographic subjects as well.

Yellowish Black Jumping Spider- Stagetilus cf. opaciceps ♂

A Yellowish Black Jumping Spider (Stagetilus cf. opaciceps?). Not all Jumping Spiders are brownish to black in colour. Some can be extraordinarily colourful, and some may even do amazing courtship dances!

Apart from the mesmerizing eyes, these spiders tend to come in a wide range of forms and colours too, thanks partly to their sexually dimorphic nature- males and females of the same species may look entirely different from one another. Some Jumping Spiders are also known to perform amazing courtship dances to impress their partners. The wonderful diversity and interesting behaviour have enticed the curiosity and determination of Macro Photographers from all over the globe to photograph each and every one of these amazing spiders. Learn more about the amazing Jumping Spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Jumping Spiders.

Cookie Jumper- Ligurra sp. ♂

A curious Cookie Jumper (Ligurra sp.). Some spiders don’t mind staying awhile and posing for a few shots, but some simply can’t stand the sight of humans!

That said, photographing these Jumpers can be as easy as a piece of pie, or a horrible nightmare depending on the type of Jumping Spiders you are shooting- some are cooperative and will lie-still or even pose for you, whereas some are just interested in fleeing! Apart from that, your resulting photos depend also on amount of Macro tricks you have up your sleeves. This article aims to make your life easier photographing Jumping Spiders of the family Salticidae with these 5 useful tips:

1. Start with cooperative Jumping Spiders

Cooperative Jumping Spiders don’t move around much, so it will be easier for you to focus more on the photographing process. This will eventually help you build up the necessary skills and confidence needed when shooting challenging subjects later on. To learn more about improving your Macro skills, please read Taking Better Macro Shots Series; to pick up some basic post-processing skills, please read: Basic Post-processing Techniques For Macro Photography.

Unidentified Jumping Spider (Ptocasius sp.?) ♂

A Ptocasius Jumping Spider. This particular Jumping Spider is easy to recognized and photograph, thanks to its willingness to stay put and look at your camera lens. Be warned though, it likes to jump onto your camera too!

Unfortunately it would be impossible to even start listing down the species and names of Jumping Spiders that don’t mind being photographed, especially so when the spiders found here may not be available elsewhere vice versa. The trick here would be to observe the Jumping Spiders you find and see whether they stick around. If they do, then the next step would be to remember how they look like: chances are the same types will behave similarly even during different encounters. The patterns of the “tail” (abdomen) are a great way to recognize a Jumping Spider, although it should be stressed that some Jumping Spiders closely resemble one another even though they are of different species. Take a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top as a record and reference for use next time.

Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?)

A Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?). Taking a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top will allow you to remember and recognize the spider during the next encounter. It can be used for ID purpose as well.

2. Get upclose- use the right tools

Jumping Spiders are not exactly the largest spiders out there, making them a tad more difficult to photograph, even when they are not busy jumping around. In order to better portray your Macro Shots, you need to be able to get photos of higher magnifications without having to get too close and scare away the spider (regardless of its cooperativeness).

Electric Blue Banded Phintella- Phintella vittata ♂

A male Electric Blue Banded Phintella (Phintella vittata). Although strikingly beautiful, this common Phintella Jumping Spider is known to be exceedingly sensitive, you just can’t get close to it without it running away. This is the closest ever shot I have of this paranoid Spidey.

Therefore, the gears, or combination of gears you use for photographing Jumping Spiders are important. In general, any macro lens capable of (just) 1:1 does not offer enough magnification for Jumping Spiders: You need to get higher magnification than that to really capture the details.

The following are my two favourite combination of Macro Gears to photograph Jumping Spiders. I totally understand that there are many other methods to gain magnification, and would love to hear from you. Who knows yours might be better than mine? 🙂

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 1

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 1. This setup consists of 2 (36mm + 20mm) to 3 (36mm + 20mm +12mm) levels of Extension Tubes to increase magnification beyond 1:1. A long macro lens is used to allow a good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Comfortable distance between camera and subject.
  • Decent amount of zooming and magnification possible.

 


 

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Using more Extension Tubes will reduce the amount of light detected by the camera sensor, thus making focusing challenging (can be avoided by shining the subject with torchlight)
Wide-Jawed Jumper- Likely Parabathippus sp. ♂

A male Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus sp.). This shot was taken with Setup 1. Setup 1 offers more zooming and magnifying range.

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 2

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 2. This setup consist of just a single Extension Tube (36mm or 20mm) plus a Macro Conversion Lens (Raynox-250 in this case). A long macro lens is used to allow good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Relatively lighter.
  • Macro Conversion Lens do not decrease the amount of light falling onto the camera sensor- easier focusing.
  • Photos taken with Macro Conversion Lens appear to be sharper.

 

Cons:

  • A Macro Conversion Lens reduce significantly the focusing distance and focusing range.
  • More expensive to buy a set of Extension Tubes and Macro Conversion Lens.
Jumping Spider ♂ (unidentified)

An unidentified male Jumping Spider. This shot was taken with Setup 2. Setup 2 allows a slightly higher magnification than Setup 1.

There are of course, no fixed way of gaining magnifications for your shots, thus the different combinations of accessories I use to photograph subjects. For example, for larger or uncooperative Jumping Spiders, Setup 1 works better than Setup 2 vice versa.

Personally I would recommend getting 90/100/105mm or longer macro lenses for a farther working distance- less chance of scaring sensitive subjects away. They may be quite expensive, but definitely worth the money if you are serious about Macro Photography 🙂

3. Subject displacement

Although considered as partially “cheating”, moving a subject from one place to another (within the same habitat) will ensure greater chances of getting proper shots. This is because some Jumping Spiders can be very “jumpy” and sensitive, and will flee at the first sight of danger- YOU!

Portia Jumping Spider (Portia sp. ♂)

A male Portia Jumping Spider. This particular spider just wouldn’t sit still, so I moved it onto a lichen-rich rock and took my time photographing it there. It still took me quite a lot of tries to get this one T___T Always remember to put your subjects back to where they belong!

Some spiders may be found among thick bushes or foliages, where it is near impossible to relocate them once fled; it is better to move the spider to somewhere more isolated, preferably a lone plant before you start shooting away- that way the spider will have less chance of slipping away. Try to place the spider at a height where you can comfortably shoot from while kneeling to reduce hand-shakes.

Please ALWAYS REMEMBER TO PUT THE JUMPING SPIDER BACK to where you found it after you are done! Please be a responsible Macro Photographer!

4. Make them stop

Point 3 may prevent Jumping Spiders from escaping, but it doesn’t really work in calming them down. As a result, some may resort to cruel techniques to “immobilize” Jumping Spiders or any other insects; often resulting in unnatural photos (yes, it is not hard to tell whether the subject is tortured, dead or alive). I, on the other hand, prefer a more gentle and natural approach which, unfortunately doesn’t always work. The trick is simple, feed the spider! This method will work so long as the spider is hungry. I am happy to see that a handful of Macro Photographers are also using this technique instead of using the easy way out, kudos to them!

Heavy Jumper (Hyllus sp. ♂) with blowfly prey

A male Heavy Jumper (Hyllus) feeding on a blowfly. Feeding a Jumping Spider is one of the best ways to stop them from running around!

Spiders don’t get food that easily in the wild, and because of that, they will often hold onto food for dear life- almost all will stay put and enjoy their meals, allowing you to happily snap to your heart’s desire! What’s more, a shot of a spider eating is definitely more meaningful and attractive as one without.

Jumping Spider with prey

This particular species of Jumping Spider is known to hold onto its food very stubbornly. This feeding technique is not only applicable to Jumping Spider.

I always bring a butterfly net along for my trips, and I often use it to catch blowflies (or any other flies) to feed these Jumping Spiders, especially uncooperative ones.  Consider the meal a reward for keeping still~ Try not to worry about the flies either, as most are pests.

5. Focus Stack to overcome shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF)

Since Jumping Spiders are small in general, you will most probably need to get close to gain magnification, and increased magnification will result in shallower Depth-of-Field- the amount of things in focus within the frame becomes less. Learn more about Depth-of-Field here: Overcoming Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Jumping Spider ♂, ready to jump!

Note that only the eyes and a few of the legs of this male Jumping Spider are in focus, this shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) becomes more obvious the higher magnification you go.


Great Wide-Jawed Jumper- Parabathippus magnus ♂

A male Great Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus magnus). This shot was taken using the same setup as the photo above; but note that more of spider’s body parts are in focus. This is the result of focus stacking using 4 separate photographs.

Focus stacking basically refers to a technique where several photos, each focusing at different parts of the subject, are combined to form a whole picture. For example, the shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) in Macro Photography disallow the capture of a whole Jumping Spider: If the eyes are in focus, the front legs and abdomen (tail) will likely be blurred out. We solve this problem by Focus Stacking, one photo focusing on the eyes, one on the fore-legs, and the last one on the tail prior to “stitching” them up and resulting in a photo where all 3 are in focus. Learn more about Focus Stacking here: Using Focus Stack to Overcome Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Focus Stacking can be done handheld and outdoors, but may require some getting used to. However, once mastered, you will be able to take great shots without compromising on details or the  livelihood of subjects.

Okay! That’s all for today folks! Thank you very much for reading! I hope that the information here will be able to help keen photographers snap better photos of their favourite Jumping Spiders!

Heavy Jumper- Hyllus sp. ♂

A male Heavy Jumper. We hope that you guys will have a greater experience photographing Jumping Spiders from now on! Have fun!

For those who are interested, please check out our galleries of spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Spiders

Before I go I would like to wish all of you A Happy New Year 2015 in advance yeah! Take care and Happy Shooting!

 

** Flash powers are mere estimates. I apologize for not being able to recall the precise settings in many of my photographs.

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission. 

Wildlife Malaysia launched!

Greetings everyone! Sorry for the long absence~ I was working with a group of friends on a new website, one that I am very happy to be able to launch today!

Wildlifemalaysia.com launched!

Ever since I have started Pixelsdimension.com, which is a website focusing on Macro Photography; I have received a lot of interesting mails and comments from both friends and family and I couldn’t thank you all enough!

According to the comments, many of those who love nature but do not know much about Photography were having problems keeping up with the technical stuffs shown in this website, and many would prefer a site that emphasizes more on Wildlife rather than Photography. Well, your valuable comments have been heard, and I am pleased to inform everyone that the new website- wildlifemalaysia.com is up! Please feel free to head over there and check things out! It is not 100% completed but some of the contents are already in~

Wildlifemalaysia.com is set up to educate the public about the importance and diversity of our Malaysian wildlife which will hopefully inculcate understanding as well as appreciation especially among the younger generations, who will hopefully be able to push conservation efforts harder in the future.

That said, I will still continue to update Pixelsdimension.com regularly as I still have a burning passion for Macro Photography, so please stay tune for more useful articles!

Thank you all for reading! I would like to thank everyone for their constant support all this while!

Cheers~

5 Ways To Minimize Dark Background In Macro Shots

In the previous article, we have already discussed the benefits of using a flashgun for better photographs in Macro Photography (For more details, please read Using Flash In Macro Photography). In short, by using flash you will be able to (i) “freeze” moments and enable sharp photos, even when the subject is moving and (ii) Keep ISO sensitivity low so as to retain more details and colours in your shots.

Harvestman

An Orange Harvestman. Note the background that is almost pitch black- a common phenomenon in Flash Macro Photography

However, as you start shooting, you will undoubtedly notice that most of the time, the background of resulting photos will appear pitch black and featureless. This is a common phenomenon when the background is too far away for the flash to reach and light up. This happens even when the background is decently bright (to your eyes) due to the low ISO sensitivity levels used.

White Lipped Frog- Hylarana cf. labialis)

A White Lipped Frog. The apparent lack of a proper background will attract viewers to focus their attention on the frog instead, especially its round and beautiful eyes.

Five-legged Stick Insect

A Five-legged Stick Insect, note its newly regenerated foreleg! The presence of some background gives the photo a little bit more depth- at least you know that it is found within the forest and among the greenery.

Of course, having a background that is completely dark may not necessarily be a bad thing- it removes the background altogether, allowing viewers to concentrate on the subject(s) itself, and you can make sure your subjects are evenly lit by providing good flash diffusion (For more details, please read- 6 Things About Flash Diffusion That You Should Know). However, there may be instances where the photo might look better if a little bit of the background is included, giving a sense of depth and story to the photograph. It all depends on personal preference and taste.

Personally I would prefer to display a background when framing a subject (especially a whole body shot) into a small area of the frame. In this case, it makes more sense to display not only the subject, but also the environment where it is found.

Wagler's Pit Viper- Tropidolaemus wagleri ♀

A Wagler’s Pit Viper. This Pit Viper was actually sunning itself early in the morning, but the lack of a proper background means viewers will not know what the viper was actually doing. [EXIF: 105mm, ISO100, F11, 1/250, flash fired]

A Sunning Wagler's Pit Viper- Tropidolaemus wagleri ♀

A photo of the same Wagler’s Pit Viper, but with a visible background, showing just how beautiful the sunny morning is! [EXIF: 105mm, ISO2000, F13, 1/100, flash fired]

So, what exactly do you need to do in order to get rid of the dark background? There are several methods:

1. Shoot using Natural Light. Okay, this isn’t really a very relevant method considering we are talking about Flash Macrography, but for the sake of the beginners I would like to just share this here and I hope you guys will bear with me on this one XD

Great Angle Head Lizard- Gonocephalus grandis ♂♀

A pair of Great Angle Head Lizards (male left, female right). “Macro” shots taken using Natural Light look best at a distance from the (especially large) subject. By taking full body shots, you will be able to include the wonderful and blurred-out backgrounds which are simply treats to the eye!

When you photograph your subjects using Natural Light i.e. no flash, the lighting (on the subject and background) will be as natural as what you see with your own eyes! However, in order to get these type of shots you usually have to bump up ISO by a lot (sacrificing image quality) and keep the shutter speeds low (higher chances of getting blurred shots). The poorer image quality (high noise levels and blurriness) becomes more obvious when you are photographing your subjects up-close.

Wagler's Pit Viper- Tropidolaemus wagleri ♀

With the help of a tripod, you can capture relatively up-close, high quality shots like this using only Natural Light. But you are going to have to sacrifice shutter speed (shot with 1/13) in order to keep ISO sensitivities down (ISO 100)- hardly practical since most subjects love to move around!

Handheld “macro” shots taken using Natural Light should be taken from a relatively farther distance  for better results: get too close and you will have problems getting the shot right, even if you have a tripod. This is due to the shallower Depth-of-Field (DOF) at higher magnifications. Learn more about magnification and DOF by reading (i) Macro Photography- 1:1 Magnification Explained and (ii) Overcoming Shallow DOF in Macro Photography.

2. Use an artificial background. The main reason why you get a dark background in Flash Macrography is because the flash is not powerful enough to reach and lit whatever is in the background, and thus not recorded by your DSLR sensor.

This can be easily solved by introducing your own background- a piece of leaf or even printed papers with coloured backgrounds! Some people prefer to use natural-looking artificial backgrounds so that the subject blends in properly, whereas some wants the shot to be as contrasty as possible; it all depends on your preference, and how you wish the final results to be.

Thomisus sp.

A White Crab Spider. You can add an artificial background (brown leaf in this case) to prevent dark backgrounds. Although most of the time photographers don’t put the leaf this close haha :p Shots like this are usually not my cup of tea.

This method is especially useful if you are going on Macro Sessions with friends who can help you hold the artificial background as you photograph vice versa.

3. Change your camera settings. Although it takes a little bit of practice, you can actually get a properly lit background if you get your DSLR settings correct. Most Macro Setups are specifically designed for up-close shooting, so the settings are often: ~ISO100, 1/200-1/250, ~F16, and flash power at ~1/2-1/8. These settings will always give you dark backgrounds where the flash fails to reach.

Lantern Bug Nymph (Zanna sp.)

A Lantern Bug Nymph. [EXIF: 105mm, ISO100, F16, 1/250, flash fired at 1/2 power]. A normal DSLR setup will usually give a dark background with the usual, standard settings for macro.

Lantern Bug Nymph (Zanna sp.)

A beautiful Lantern Bug Nymph. [EXIF: 105mm, ISO320, F10, 1/80, flash fired approx. 1/16 power]. Note how some minor changes can bring about huge differences in results?

The three camera settings that really determines whether you get dark backgrounds or not are (i) the ISO value, (ii) shutter speed and (iii) your flash power. (Confused? Please check out the basics here: How To Shoot Macro For Beginners.)

By increasing ISO sensitivity (you often don’t have to increase a lot) and reducing shutter speeds (1/50 is generally the minimum possible, with flash, to avoid shakes), you will be able to get a much brighter background (of course, assuming you are testing this during the day! XD). However, if you do not lower your flash power, you will get a decently lit background but an overexposed subject! So, try lowering your flash power a bit; it will take some experience and practice to guesstimate how much to lower. Keep trying until you get the correct exposure for both the subject and background.

This technique doesn’t only apply to Macro shots but all types of Flash or Strobist Photography, so definitely worth learning, give it a try!

4. Change your shooting angle. Last but not least, this is one of the easiest and most effective methods in preventing dark backgrounds, which is to simply adjust your shooting angle so as to include some background e.g. leaves that are within the range of your flash that will be recorded into your final photo. As a very lazy guy who doesn’t like to change my DSLR settings, I almost always shoot using this method.

Heavy Jumper (Hyllus sp. ♂) with blowfly prey

A big kill for a big Hyllus Jumping Spider! You don’t always have to photograph your subjects directly from the front and at eye-level with the ground (which most photographers love to do). In this shot, by shooting from a slightly higher angle, I managed to use the leaf itself as the background, eliminating dark backgrounds.

Sometimes you find that shooting a subject from the left side produces nasty backgrounds, but by simply switching to photographing the same subject from the right side, you get a whole world of difference! To know more about getting good compositions and backgrounds for your Macro Photographs, please read (i) Taking Better Macro Shots Part 2- Composition and (ii) Taking Better Macro Shots Part 4- Background.

Of course, this method only works if there are suitable substances within flash range in the background.

5. Crop away! Well, this post-processing method might be considered as cheating but its still a wonderful trick to have up your sleeves! To learn more about post-processing and cropping, please read: Basic Post-processing Techniques For Macro Photography. Most Macro Shots out there are cropped, especially so for very tiny subjects. By cropping carefully, you can easily remove, or at least minimize dark backgrounds within a shot.

Doleschall's Cross Spider- Argiope doleschalli ♀

A relatively uncommon Doleschall’s Cross Spider (Argiope doleschalli ♀). This shot was cropped so that I do not have to show the long legs of this spider holding onto the edges of the leaf. If I do that, there will undoubtedly be dark backgrounds on the corner of the frame which I think can be rather distracting.

Alright guys and girls, that’s it for today~

I hope you will have a fun time getting rid of dark backgrounds this time around! I need to stress again that having a dark background isn’t always bad. It all depends on what you want your Macro Shots to look like at the end of the day! Of course, a good photo is not only about its background, there are several other important aspects that make a photo POP, as covered in Macro Photography- Taking Photos That People Like!

Freshly moulted grasshopper

Dark background? Light background? Why not both? After all, a shot is good so long as you are happy with it! ^__^

Until the next time, Happy- Macroing!

** Flash powers are mere estimates. I apologize for not being able to recall the precise settings in many of my photographs.

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.