Creepy crawlies / by Mario Mirabile

I've long had a fascination with macro photography. The fact that it requires specialized equipment certainly gets the gear nut in me going, but it's the detail that a good macro shot reveals that lies at the centre of its appeal. A carefully constructed static shoot in controlled conditions is challenging enough, but shooting live subjects in the wild raises the bar considerably.

These two beasties were shot under markedly different conditions. The first was a chance encounter while out walking, the other was found in my back yard while hanging out the washing. I didn't have my macro lens on the walk, but fortunately I had my extension tube which converts my telephoto zoom into a handy quasi-macro lens. The other required several attempts before I got a decent capture. When I first spotted him it was quite windy, and there was no way I was going to get the shot as the tiny (no more than 1cm) spider moved around on the wind. Hoping to get in early next morning before the wind came up, I set up my gear before going to bed. Unfortunately, there was no sign of him when I returned to the same spot. I checked back periodically and found he'd come back about a week later. As a bonus, he looked like he'd grown quite a bit since I last saw him.

Tech Talk
I had a few issues to overcome with the first spider. Breeze (no option but to wait for a lull), backlighting (add a bit of flash from the built in pop-up), subject up a tree, no tripod and no macro lens. Fortunately, adding the Olympus EX-25 extension tube to the Zuiko Digital 50-200mm SWD zoom allows around 1:3 magnification ratio with reasonable working distance. Using the on-board flash limited my shutter speed to 1/250th second, but it was the only way to get enough light onto the spider for any detail to be visible into the back-lighting.

I had more time to set up for the second shot which was just as well as the spider was much smaller. This time it was the EX-25 + Zuiko Digital 50mm macro giving 1:1 magnification. I used the Olympus RF-11 ring flash at its lowest manual setting and took my time manoeuvring the rig on a tripod to get a background without too many highlights while keeping the spider in the plane of focus. It wasn't until afterwards (and after the spider had departed) that I realised I had left the camera's image stabilization on, which may have taken the edge off the sharpness of the photo.