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Inspirations >> Photos & People

Stories Behind the Macro Lens

It takes more than a keen eye for detail to take great macro shots of insects. Just ask Fauzan Maududdin, who hails from Indonesia. Fauzan has clinched top spots in various macro photography competitions such as 1x.com, and was also awarded Indonesia’s Macro Photographer of The Year in 2018.  

So what does it take to create such captivating macro images of insects and portray them in these creative ways? In this article, Fauzan will show you five of his favourite photos and the stories behind them.  

 


Our World
EOS 5D Mark II, EF100mm f /2.8 Macro IS USM, f/6.3, ISO 320, 1/640s, 100mm

I was near a traditional market in Banjarbaru City, South Kalimantan, and there were a lot of shrubs nearby. It was there I spotted this baby mantis. It may be hard to imagine, but it was only around 15mm, just about the size of your fingernail. Despite its size, it wasn't hard to spot even though it was the dry season when they are seen less often. Perhaps I saw it because I have photographed mantises a lot, so it was easy for me to spot them among the plants.  

I remember it was late afternoon when I took this shot, so the surroundings were getting dark fast. It had rained too, and the sun was just above the horizon. Seeing these elements fall into place, I decided to shoot the baby mantis backlit with the EOS 5D Mark II and the EF100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM. The result was a silhouette, and seeing as I had captured it in RAW, I could get more details out of the shot.  

This turned out to be one of my signature shots, having exhibited it numerous times in Indonesia and abroad.  

 


The Astro Gate Keeper 
EOS 5D Mark II, EF100mm f /2.8 Macro IS USM, f/10, ISO 800, 1/100s, 100mm  

If you are looking for grass spiders, try to find its web, which tends to spread out above the grass. I was at a grass field in Banjarmasin City in South Kalimantan when I spotted it. It was nearing the dry season, and the grass was gradually turning yellow from green.  

The tricky thing about shooting grass spiders is that they are easily frightened. Once you spot its web, you need to be subtle with your movements when getting into a prone position in front of its opening to spot the spider. Patience plays a big part in capturing this shot, as any sudden movements may cause the arachnid to dart back into its web. If it does, you'll need to wait for it to move to the opening again.  

The lowlight conditions made this shot even trickier as I needed to ensure the focus was spot on. Other than holding and pointing my camera and lens at the web opening, I needed to focus on my breathing while in a prone position, as extended periods in such a position may cause discomfort.  
 


Hanging Cranefly 
EOS 80D, EF100mm f /2.8 Macro IS USM, f/7.1, ISO 6400, 1/250s, 100mm 

Sometimes, you don't have to go out hunting for shots. They come to you. Such was the case for this picture of crane flies, which I spotted on a tree outside my house.  

Crane flies can be pretty elusive, despite being twice the size of mosquitoes. This can be attributed to their slim bodies. Due to their size, crane flies can be swayed easily by small gusts of wind, or sometimes even by your own breath if you're breathing too hard.  

I needed to close down my aperture to get more depth of field to ensure the entire row of crane flies were sharp. But this would mean that the background clutter may look distracting. Luckily for me, my wife was wearing a long black dress that day, and I had her stand in the background. With less light, I needed to boost the ISO to use a reasonably fast shutter speed for overcoming any blur caused by the wind moving the crane flies. I also set the frame mode to Continuous to get a sequence of images. This helped me get the best possible shot that day. 

 


White Crab Spider 
EOS 80D, EF100mm f /2.8 Macro IS USM, f/6.3, ISO 1600, 1/320s, 100mm 

The first time I spotted a crab spider, I didn't bring my camera along. So, when I had the chance to visit a botanical research garden in Banjabaru City in South Kalimantan, I made sure I had my gear with me.  

Crab spiders are notoriously difficult to spot due to a few factors. They are very small, and they are mostly translucent. To add to that, they usually hide between flower petals or under the leaves. 

Patience played a big role in getting this shot. You need to exercise patience in finding the crab spider, but once you spot it, it may quickly evade you and hide from your view again. 

 

 
Acrobatical Ant 
EOS 5D Mark II, EF100mm f /2.8 Macro IS USM, f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/100s, 100mm 

Weaver ants are a very common species of ants, and their nests can be found on or near a mango tree.  

I came up with the idea of bringing the reed flower near the weaver ant as they are known to snap their jaws shut when an object is brought near them.  

There were two challenges in getting this shot. Firstly, I needed to encourage the weaver ant to pinch the reed flower as I bent it towards the insect. Secondly, I needed to be able to capture this moment just before the ant opened its jaws and released the flower.  

The first challenge required a bit of luck, but the second challenge required some quick work with my equipment and the ability to nail the focus on the ant in a split instance.  

I guess lady luck was on my side. All the elements aligned for this shot which also made me the winner of the Macro Photo category for the 1x.com photo contest in 2017. 

Do you feel inspired by Fauzan’s stories? It’s never too late to start gathering your own. If you are new to macro insect photography, check out what you need to prepare for your first shoot here!