For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Videos: YouTube

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Macro versus close-up photography

The difference between macro and close-up photography has always been a very debated, and sometimes heated, subject. Some people will argue that it depends on the ratio of size depending on the object photographed but for me personally, it is a case of showing a small object in high definition, regardless of the object itself.

There is also a debate on the use of a mono or tripod but in my kind of photography these are useless as you have to be able to constantly move your camera more freely. For me, I found the use of a small bean bag on which to rest my camera a much better option and much less heavy than a tripod. Even a soft cloth of some kind which you can put on a rock or branch and place your camera on so it does not get scratched. Mono and tripods are very useful when it comes to stationary objects such as flowers etc.

Debateable is also the settings on the camera as many people tend to put the camera and lens on Auto. These depend very much on the type of camera one has and how well you are versed at doing your own setting. I prefer manual for both camera and lens as it gives me great flexibility. For example, the lens zooming in and out on auto trying to pick up your subject is very distracting, makes a noise and can take a long time and by then your subject has flown away.

Insect and nature photographs is surely one of the best subjects one can photograph for many reasons: It is challenging, subjects are plentiful even in winter and one does not need special cameras and lenses with which to do it. Some of my best macro shots have been taken with and ordinary Point and Shoot (Mik and druk) cameras. It is true what they say – it is not the camera which counts but the person behind it.

I have been doing close-up/macro photography for a while now, mostly insects and have discovered a world few have ever seen. Because of this, I have started a wider and wider circle of people now looking at insects in a whole new way. No more do they run for the can of Doom but instead go and grab their cameras. I think that once this bug has bitten you (excuse the pun) you begin to look at your garden and in fact anything in nature in a whole new way.

This type of photography teaches one a lot which is useful in other types of photography too such as patients. Stalking a butterfly or dragonfly in order to get close to it is something of an art and there are new techniques to learn in order to be successful. Probably the greatest tips I can give you are the following:

1. Learn to move very slowly.

2. Watch where the sun is and never allow your shadow to cross the subject.

3. In some cases such as dragonflies, first sit and watch them for a long while. You will see that they tend to land on the same piece of grass or stick every time. You can then go and sit nearby, get your camera ready and sit quietly waiting for them to return. Beware, the waiting period can be 20 minutes!! 

4. Some insects such as bees and butterflies prefer certain plant species. Walk in the veld and learn to identify these.

5. Practice holding your camera steady as in macro photography, the slightest movement will blur the picture. If you have nowhere to rest your camera, learn to tuck your elbow into your stomach and rest the camera on that. Also hold your breath for the instant you press the shutter.

I have started a research project and website on the biodiversity of our insect species as I receive many e-mails from people asking me what-is-this. There are so many species of reptiles, flowers, insects etc in South Africa which have not been discovered yet and though this has up to now been only a hobby with me, I am now looking for sponsors in order to do research on a full time basis. As it is, I have been commissioned by one of the government departs to collect specimens of certain beetles and record where they are found. With the ease of transportation nowdays, distribution maps are very out of date so if you are interested in having a new species named after you or your company, anyone sponsoring me will have first choice in this. My e-mail address is on my blog which can be found at

The website for the identification of species of South Africa’s fauna and flora is in its infancy but there are a substantial amount of pictures there already. At this stage I am asking people to send me their photographs to  

The picture should be cropped as far as possible and sent to me at about 600 x 400 pixels in size. These pictures, along with the name of the person who took it, will be added to the website and it will eventually grow into something sizeable. If you are an expert in any particular field and can help me with identification of things, I will gladly accept your help and knowledge. SA does not have a comprehensive website like this, so please help me make it grow. The website can be found at and I would love it if people would put links to it on their e-mails, blogs, Flickr, Facebook etc and any other website where the word can spread about its availability.

PS I think that no matter what type of photography one does, the bottom line is to try to be the best you can be at it. Do not be afraid to ask questions of people, as most willingly give you advice. My icon is Jose of Jose Hernandez World. I have not come across a more accomplished and versatile photographer. He travels the world and shows us places most of us will never get to and did not know existed. He is an excellent bird and nature photographer as this brilliant article on the Bald Eagles shows. His photographs, no matter what the subject, tell stories and that is how it should be.

No comments: