The Summer months are generally a time of plenty. With the long, hot days, we are privileged to witness many beautiful plant and tree species flowering, along with other interesting animal activity out in the bush. Along with that, and a significant part of summer is a large increase in the concentration of insects. Moths and butterflies flutter around the bushveld, termites take flight from their nests, beetles scuttle across the floor, spiders weave their webs across all the pathways and geckos pick off insects buzzing around light sources during the night. All of this creepy crawly talk is the stuff of nightmares for some people. For a keen macro photographer like myself, however, it is a dream come true!
You may be asking yourself what macro photography is. Well, without getting into too much detail, macro photography is a field of photography where subjects are shot at very close distances- typically using specific camera equipment and techniques, and where subjects appear larger than life size. Because of the equipment used and the nature of this photography style, images can reveal amazing detail, so for any keen wildlife photographer or nature enthusiast, macro photography can be a rewarding avenue to explore. While rewarding, it can also be the most challenging form of photography. Subjects hardly ever do what you want them to do and a huge amount of patience and persistence is always needed. This is definitely the case if you want to try insect macro photography, as most insects are not interested in a large human shoving a camera into their face, and will usually scramble or fly off to safety on your immediate approach. I have spent many hours in the heat, crawling on my elbows and knees towards dragonflies only to have them take flight as I am about to press the shutter button. This sequence can be very frustrating but when you do get the shot you are hoping for, there is no better feeling!
As we are starting to experience subtle changes in the bushveld indicating the imminent approach of winter, I find myself hauling my macro setup around the camp less and less. Unfortunately the opportunities to shoot some of the smaller fauna, that make up part of this amazing place we call home, are not as frequent with many species of reptile and insects becoming less active during the cooler, drier winter months. So, as summer draws to a close I thought that this was a good time to share some of my macro images that I have managed to capture here at Londolozi during the last five months. I hope none of them give any of you nightmares!
I like how this shot focuses on the detail of the claw but you are still able to make out that it is a scorpion by having the face and second claw blurred in the background. f/2; ISO 400; 1/200
I was really lucky with this shot. I was trying to shoot some ants crawling around on the wall and this huge fly landed in my frame. All I had to do was to refocus and press the shutter. F/14; ISO 1000; 1/200
I think this beautiful butterfly speaks for itself as to why it would make a good subject. This species of butterfly is a female Diadem. Their patterning mimics the African monarch which helps prevent them being preyed on, as the African monarch is toxic. F/10; ISO 1000; 1/200
This little longhorn beetle was fun to photograph. It was slow moving and made an interesting subject with its cryptic yellow and black patterning, as well as its incredibly long antennae. F/20; ISO 6400; 1/800
Painted reed frogs are definitely one of the prettiest frogs we find here in South Africa, and so make great subjects and are usually very comfortable having their photo taken. F/32; ISO 1250; 1/10
This dragonfly was exceptionally tolerant of me which allowed me to leopard-crawl right up to it whilst it was resting on the pathway. This allowed me to capture as much detail as I did of its facial features. F/14; ISO 640; 1/200
Jumping spiders are one of my favourite subjects to shoot when it comes to bug macro photography. They are very charismatic with their huge eyes and furry bodies. F/25; ISO 2500; 1/200
I found this male Diadem butterfly feasting on a flowering shrub. The shrub flowered for only three days and during this time it become a Mecca for insects of all kinds. I will be watching this shrub closely for when it flowers again next year! F/9; ISO 100; 1/200
I found this tiny jumping spider, which was nicely side lit, on the camp path. Because it was so small I didn’t crop the picture too much as I wanted to give the impression of a tiny creature in a huge expanse. I also really like the mottled lighting coming through the vegetation in the background. f/16; ISO 1600; 1/200
Even though not as attractive as the Painted Reed Frog, this Foam Nest Frog’s skin has a great texture and its eye has amazing patterning in it. F/20; ISO 1600; 1/60
This Golden Orb Spider was probably one of the largest I’ve seen. During the summer months these spiders build their golden webs all over the bushveld. Even though they are quite intimidating, they make for great subjects. f/9; ISO 4000; 1/500
This is another one of my favourite subjects to shoot. Apart from their interesting characteristics, praying mantids rely on stealth to capture their prey, so they spend a lot of their time keeping very still which is obviously a bonus for the photographer. f/11; ISO 500; 1/200
I found this interesting fly on the same shrub as the male Diadem butterfly. Its huge compound eyes, like most insects, always make for interesting shots. f/10; ISO 1250; 1/200
This caterpillar is one of the most amazing caterpillars I have ever seen. With its crazy hair as well as its yellow and black markings above its face. f/13; ISO 1000; 1/200
After a much needed downpour, I found this Pride of the Cape shrub which was in full flower and gleaming with water droplets. With the help of a tripod and remote shutter, I was able to catch the reflection of its leaves in a water droplet. f/20; ISO 5000; 1/200
Mushrooms and fungi are great subjects to photograph. They often have interesting textures and patterns on them. I especially like the wavy pattern formed on the underside of this species, as well as the mix of shadow and light created by the pattern. f/22; ISO 800; 1/200
Many dragonfly species are very territorial so even if they fly away they often return to the same perching spot. This dragonfly flew away when I approached but landed back in the exact position a few seconds later, with just its head in a beam of sunlight and the rest of its body in the shade. f/13; ISO 1000; 1/800