Monday, May 21, 2012

Night Macro

Officially, it wasn't my first night macro anymore. Tried it when i was at Endau Rompin. But this time it was together with our usual macro gang. I also mentioned about a secret weapon here.

If you are shooting full flash, with typical setting of 1/200, F11, ISO100, and flash (from your speedlight or dedicated macro flash) on, there is really no difference whether it's day or night, rain or shine, since your speedlight will be providing all the light needed anyway.

Basically, it wasn't any different from the usual day time macro, except you'll definitely need a flashlight/torchlight on hand to look around and search for your macro subjects. Headlamp won't work, unfortunately, because it will get in the way when you try to peep through your camera's view finder. In other words, the headlamp will hit the battery compartment of your speedlight/macro light. Unless, of course, your camera's speedlight is not mounted on the hot shoe.

Having said that, you can still wear the headlamp but adjust it slightly off center i.e either to the left or right, so it won't get in the way of your hotshoe mounted speedlight.

Do get the best torchlight/flashlight you can get hold of. Mine is an iTP SA2 Eluma LED Flashlight. You will need it to illuminate your path and to find your macro subjects!

Edit: September, 2014: I have been using a Fenix E25  for a few months and loving it. It uses 2xAA batteries. There are four brightness settings: Burst: 260 lumens; High: 130 lumens (3:30 hrs); Medium: 55 lumens (10 hrs) ; Low: 8 lumens (72 hrs). I use mainly the medium setting i.e 55 lumens. Its tight/focused beam can shoot far and enable me to spot subjects some 10 to 20 feet away. Extremely handy for spotting bigger bugs / herps.

One thing worth nothing is that I compared my E25 with an E35 out in the field / jungle at night. Mine at 55 lumen setting and the E35 at 120 lumen. Surprisingly, I preferred the tighter / more focused beam of my E25, and found myself being able to see better with my E25 at 55 lumens as opposed to the E35 at 120 lumens.

If I were to upgrade, I would probably get the Fenix PD32. Again, I compared the PD32 to my E25. Both have tight /focused beams, but Fenix PD32 offers higher lumens for longer duration, simply because it uses 1x18650 battery, which is equivalent to 4xAA.

You'll need a helping hand too once you have found a subject. You can try to shine the flashlight on the subject while attempting to focus and press the shutter, but it's much easier if you get a friend to help on the former.

Your torchlight/flashlight will have no effect on your overall exposure. To confirm this, well, just turn off your speedlight, and proceed to take a photograph of the subject illuminated solely by your torchlight/flashlight. The image captured should be totally black.

If your macro flash has built-in focusing light, then you're in luck. My MT-24EX Twin Flash< has just that and it really comes in handy. You can set the Custom Function #9 on your MT-24EX / MR-14EX so whenever you double tap the shutter button, the focusing light will come on and stay on for 20second or until you press the shutter, whichever faster.

You can also try adding a focusing lamp to your macro setup to aid in focusing. That way you don't need someone to help you shine light on your macro subject. Something like this:

A small flashlight/torchlight with adjustable angle
focusing lamp for night macro or dark view finder

The small flashlight/torchlight attached to the macro rig. That's a DIY Snoot Diffuser attached to a speedlight. A DIY Snoot Diffuser guide is here.

Focusing Lamp for night macro or in the dark

Both images above courtesy of Chee Wai.

You can also get a AA or AAA (even lighter) flashlight that comes with a clip. Just clip it onto your diffuser/rig and you'll be able to use it as your focusing light. Fenix Ld02 is a good choice.

The flashlight/torch will have little or no effect on your overall exposure. To test if your focusing light is affecting your exposure, turn off your speedlight and take a shot, with the focusing light from the torch on. If you see total darkness, that means the focusing light from your torch does not affect the exposure. However, do not shine the flashlight/torch into the lens as it will cause glare.

You'll tend to find some different insects/bugs than what you'd find during day time. Best of all, it's much cooler at night! It's also much cooler and based on my limited experience, less mosquitoes too.

Wonderful creatures of the night that I have come across during my night macro outings :)

What do you get when you cross vinegar with macaroons? A vinegaroons! (whip scorpion)
Vinegaroons aka whip scorpion...IMG_5477 merged copy
Merged from seven vertical images in CS5.

Vinegaroons aka whip socrpion...IMG_5468 copy

A harvestman that seems to glow in the dark. Probably newly molted. Sandokanidae.
Need ID!!! IMG_8792 copy

A harvesstman (Sandokanidae) enjoying its escargot supper.
harvestman enjoying its escargot supper IMG_8577 (2) copy

A Malaysian black and gold huntsman (Thelcticopis sp. family Sparassidae, Tube-dwelling spiders) and a daredevil yellow crazy ant! LOL. Huge spider, 25mm body length!
black and gold huntsman IMG_8840 (2) copy
More tropical spiders here.

Orange huntsman with egg sac
Orange huntsman with egg sac...IMG_8655 copy

Mommy huntsman with her spiderings.
Mommy huntsman with spiderlings...IMG_8696 (2) copy
Check out a huntsman life cycle documentation here.

Another huntsman spider. More tropical spiders here.
huntsman portrait IMG_5448 stk copy

A gorgeous green huntsman
Green huntsman....IMG_0196 copy

A male and female Bolas spiders, Cyrtarachne fangchengensis

IMG_9128 copy

You will find many frogs too at night. White lipped frog (Hylarana labialis)
White lipped frog (Hylarana labialis)...IMG_9505 stacked copy

Cute little frog.
beautiful little frog IMG_5350 copy

Rhacophorus dulitensis, Mount Dulit Treefrog, from Danum Valley.
Rhacophorus dulitensis, Mount Dulit Treefrog...IMG_9171 copy

A ribbon worm, Nemertea, trying to prey on a beetle
A ribbon worm, Nemertea, trying to prey on a beetle IMG_8425 copy

Pill roach
Pill roach..IMG_6270 copy

Beautiful brown lacewing Family: Hemerobiidae, Genus: Micromus(?)
Beautiful brown lacewing Family: Hemerobiidae, Genus: Micromus(?) IMG_7036 copy

Sleeping bees.....I don't like to sleep alone :P
Sleeping bees...I don't like to sleep alone.............IMG_8889 copy

male bees sleeping on a branch IMG_3003 merged copy

More bees and wasps here.

A cute little lizard sleeping on a blade of grass :)
Sleeping lizard...IMG_1493 copy

Another lizard on a different night.
Cute little lizard sleeping...IMG_0001 copy

Up close with a female angle head lizard (Gonocephalus grandis) at night. More about this beautiful species here.
female angle head lizard, gonocephalus grandis portrait IMG_7020 copy

Another sleeping lizard. They all wake up at the slightest disturbance!
another sleeping lizard, agamid IMG_6643 copy

Moss mantis, Majangella sp., probably M. moultoni. More Malaysian mantids here.
moss mantis majangella sp. IMG_7513 copy

Beautiful Fulgorid found on a tree trunk at night. Penthicodes variegata
Beautiful Fulgorid: Penthicodes variegata IMG_6630 merged copy

A really cool cockroach found in Gunung Gading National Park.
Coolest cockroach ever...IMG_7304 copy

Coolest cockroach ever...IMG_7295 copy

Trilobite beetle. More amazing Malaysian beetles here.
Trilobite beetle...IMG_7347 merged copy

Dragonfly portrait. So much easier to get close to at night.
Dragonfly portrait...IMG_1477 copy

Hairy and wet caterpillar, thanks to the heavy downpour before our night macro session.
Hairy (and wet) caterpillar........IMG_0802 copy

Orange caterpillar
orange caterpillar IMG_8577 copy

A mating pair of caddisflies. More bugs porn here.
mating pair of caddisflies IMG_8560 copy

Branded Imperial butterfly and a yellow crazy ant.
Branded Imperial butterfly and a yellow crazy ant..IMG_0337merged copy

The eye of a green crested lizard. No way you can get this close to one during day time!

Explored....Green Crested Lizard....IMG_8924 copy

Check out another type of gorgeous lizard here.

Polyrhachis sp. ants with pupae, in between two leaves. Their hive must have been flooded by the heavy rain.
Polyrhachis sp. ants with pupae..IMG_0847 copy

A beautiful moth. Yes, taken at night too. Don't let the background fool you.
A beautiful moth...IMG_9811 copy

Mud-dauber wasp (Sceliphrinae; Chalybion sp.)
Mud-dauber wasp (Sceliphrinae; Chalybion sp.)..IMG_1144 copy

Sleeping blue bee Thyreus sp.
Sleeping blue bee Thyreus sp. ...IMG_9640 copy

Wasp portrait
subfamily Larrinae under the family Crabronidae. IMG_0472 copy

Hawk moth caterpillar, Sphingid. Merged from 6 images. Tutorial here.
Hawk moth caterpillar, Sphingid .IMG_0288 merged copy

Moth. Asota sp (Erebidae, Aganainae)
Moth Asota sp (Erebidae, Aganainae)IMG_0253 copy

Viciria sp. jumping spider with eggs, and then spiderlings. Life cycle documentation here.
Montage: Viciria sp. with eggs then spiderlings

Beautiful katydid in camouflage mode.
Beautiful katydid....IMG_8598 merged copy

Tumbling flower beetle....another skittish subject that I can approach only at night.
Tumbling flower beetle....IMG_7018 copy

Fibre optic bug :D

Fibre optic bug...IMG_8414 copy

Beautiful mirid bug
Beautiful mirid bug...IMG_2516 copy

Cool Flatidae hopper, subfamily Flatoidinae(?)
Cool Flatidae hopper, subfamily Flatoidinae IMG_1585 copy


  1. Kurt,

    A fantastic series of images, absolutley amazing. The dragonfly and sleeping lizard are truly superb. Wish we had some of these colourful insects here ours appear rather drab by comparison.

    IMO you are one of the best macro shooters out there. Keep up the great work.

  2. Thanks, Alistair. That means a lot coming from a truly great macro photographer like you!

  3. Superb set Kurt!

    Excellent pictures and yes, you can't tell the moth picture is done during night!


  4. Thanks for dropping by and for the lovely comment Cristian!

  5. Very good!!! Kurt you are my idol~ hahaha...

  6. Great stuff! That first harvestman looks almost chewy!

  7. Haha..yes, we call that harvestman "Gummy" :D

  8. Almost all of my outdoor macro work is nocturnal spiders in the eaves and overhang around the garages at my apartment. They will not come out until the sun has completely set.

    I've found that rather than a clip on light, I use a Goliton double ended flash bracket with a Vello bracket on each end. On one Vello I have my flash and on the other a converted LED headlamp, both on mini ballheads. This works very well and is inexpensive.

    1. These are some of the early stage ideas. My diffuser is completely different now. I use an Olight EDC flashlight as my focusing light. Just clip it onto my diffuser and it's done.



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