My name is Faiz B. and I am an amateur macro photographer, and just like the blog name suggests, I shoot entirely on a mirrorless system. I am assuming that the reasons you’re here are either:

a) You are new to macro photography and undecided on which system is best for you.
b) You have a mirrorless camera intended for macro work but do not know how to push the limits of your set-up to produce a quality macro photo.
c) You have a DSLR camera and already shooting some macro but for whatever reasons, is thinking to make the switch to mirror less.
d) You are a DSLR die-hard fan  and here to just read the negative comments I have about your system of choice and why you should make the switch.

Whatever your reasons may be, you have come to the right place, well, with the exception of the last point because I won’t be talking smack about your DSLR or Point ‘n’ Shoot camera. There is no such thing as the perfect system or set-up; You have your own reasons for choosing what you chose and I respect that. Just for the record, I have tried nearly every possible configurations and sensor-format cameras suitable for macro photography, having experimented with countless of cameras, flashes, DIY diffusers, amongst other things, and in the end, made the decision to stick to what I have today.  I will share more about my reasons behind the decision in future posts. Through this blog, I am also hoping to share some tips and tricks that I’ve learnt along the way that would help you take better shots with your mirrorless system.

In the meantime, here are some photos that I have taken with my OMD EM1 and EM5. *pls click on image for a higher quality photo*
1. A tiny ant-mimicking mantis nymph (10mm). Click Here for a short video I made on this highly interesting creature!
2. I shoot a lot of backlighting – Here is a shot of termite soldiers.
3. I shot this beautiful Silver-colored Argiope argentata during my recent trip to the US. Found her on a hiking trip to Big Sur.
4. This Pasilobus sp. or commonly known as the bird-dung spider, mimics like its name suggests – Bird dungs.
4. Another awesome spider that mimics (Mymarachne maxillosa). This jumping spider (Saliticidae) mimics the  Common Spiny Ant (Polyrchachis sp). Here is a short documentary I made of this amazing spider (filmed with a Point ‘n’ Shoot camera).
5. One of my favourite shots. This plant hopper reminds me of Elmo, won’t you agree? 🙂
6. This huntsman, possibly from the genus Heteropoda, was shot during one of my late night macro sessions. It appeared right before we decided to pack up!
7. I absolutely adore this shot although it was a real pain to get it right! This newly emerged Cicada was sandwiched between a nest of red weaver ants and a deep trench. Can you imagine the poses I had to adopt?
8. Kerangga ants feeding nectar secreted from a Centaur Oakblue Caterpillar. A classic case of mutualism in Nature. Click here for a short documentary that I made highlighting this beautiful relationship (Filmed with a Point ‘n’ Shoot camera).
9. This Scutelleridae (?) was spotted on a wall right outside my office! 
10. This Kerengga-ant mimic caterpillar (Homodes bracteigutta) can often be seen around the nest of its namesake. It is tiny, less than 15mm in length.
11. This mommy Jumper is the epitome of motherly love- You can almost feel it in her eyes. I took only 3 shots in total as I did not want to stress her out.
12. Another shot of a Homodes bracteigutta, doing the “Locomotive”. 🙂
13. A sleeping Blue Cuckoo Bee. Why was it named after a bird? This lazy mommy would lay its egg in the nests of other bees, just like its namesake, the Cuckoo Bird!
14. A backlit caterpillar, dangling on its own silk. (<15mm)
15. One of my favourite jumpers, Epeus flavobilineatus. I wonder what it is like to not ever having a bad hair day!
16. Another shot of a Scutelleridae (?). Check out its proboscis!
17. A tiny phlocidae (?) with an even tinier prey! Looks like a mosquito (?).
18. Okay, I lied. This is my favourite jumper – The wide-jawed jumping spider (Viciria sp.)
19. Now, we all know just how difficult it is to photograph Dragonflies. This was taken after numerous attempts.
20. Another Ant-mimicking spider, Amyciaea lineatipes. This crab spider (Thomisid) preys exclusively on Kerengga Ants. Click here for a short documentary I made on this spider! (Filmed with a Point ‘n’ Shoot camera)

21. Close-up of a Midge (<10mm).
22. This Uloboridae is probably no larger than the tip of a pencil.
23. Two Kerengga ants fighting over a spider’s Exuvium.

Thank you for visiting and I hope to see you here again soon. Watch this space! 🙂

I started my journey into ‘serious’ macro photography in November 2013 as an extension to what I was already doing the past 15 years, which was to observe invertebrate behaviours in the wild. What started out simply as a neccessity to document these beautiful creatures (I was using a regular P&S camera before this) slowly turned into a passion, almost bordering obsession! Thanks to the wonders of macro photography, I was finally able to see and appreciate these animals from a much more intimate perspective, capturing never-seen-before moments, and ultimately reinforcing the love and appreciation I have for Mother Nature.

As mentioned in my previous post, I have experimented with many camera systems (most are 2nd hand or rented units) and techniques for macro work, and to be honest, I really liked the image quality from these non-mirrorless configurations below (sorry for the lousy IQ, taken with iPhone):

1) 60D Canon (crop sensor) + Kenko Electronic Extension Tubes + Tamron 90mm (non-vc) + Raynox Dcr 250 + Canon 580 EX ii Flash + DIY diffuser + Ultralite Torchlight (used for focusing). see Fig.1

2) 5d Mark II (Full Frame sensor) + Kenko Electronic Extension Tubes + Tamron 90mm (non-vc) + Raynox Dcr 250 + Nissin Di 622 mark II Flash + DIY diffuser + Ultralite Torchlight (used for focusing).

3) 7d Canon (crop sensor) + Kenko Electronic Extension Tubes + Canon 100mm L Lens (IS)  + Raynox Dcr 250 + 2 X Canon 270EX flash + Fotopro dual-arm macro flash arm + 2 X Fotopro Diffuser. see Fig. 2

Figure 1. I absolutely adore this set-up.
Figure 1.1. Using the above mentioned.

Figure 2.

While all these set-ups produced great images, they were huge and heavy to lug around! Just to clarify, I go to the gym quite often so my body was used to lifting heavy weight. However, the problem here was not just the weight per say, but rather, it was the extended duration of time that i have to lug the weight around, depending on the location of my macro session. I shoot alone most of the time and often I would travel deep into forested area. A normal macro session would be about 3-5 hours long and when you multiply that by a frequency of 3 times a week, that adds up to ALOT of hours! Another important consideration to take note would be the buildup of lactic-acid in the arms due to prolong handling which would make maintaining a stable shot for long a challenge. And as we all know, shaky hands equate to blurry images. Plus, it was difficult for me to come real close to whatever I am photographing because, more often that not, I would end up disturbing the scene with my huge twin flashes and scaring the subjects away.

What i brought with me on my trip to California. I nearly broke my back.

I travel quite a bit and that brings me to the next issue, something that is really important to me – portability. I remember one time where I had to travel 400 kilometres by bus to attend my first macro workshop organised by non other than Kurt Orion,in my opinion, one of the best in the scene. It was a cumbersome affair carrying around 10 kilos of gears (I was planning on doing some street photography as well) on top of my small duffel bag containing my daily essentials. And then there was one time where I drove to Pahang, Malaysia, for a one-week jungle expedition, and this time with an even heavier set-up with a deadweight of around 3.4 kilos that was constantly around my neck. Setting up my rig is another story altogether – it took me an average of 15-25 minutes to put everything together.

Funny-looking set-up i used during one of my trips.

By the end of it all, I was in a dilemma. I really liked the image quality that came out from my Canon set-ups but I did not like the weight and the size. It has worked for many, but somehow, not in my case. It was starting to feel like I was in a love-hate relationship, up to the point where I dreaded the idea of setting-up my camera.With all these concerns in mind, I went on a quest to find a suitable system that would fulfil the following criteria:

1) It has to be compact. Even if it means going back to a P&S camera and having to compromise on Image Quality.
2) It has to have Full Manual controls and able to shoot raw.
3) It must have a hotshoe.

Anything beyond that is a Bonus. Having a higher Megapixel-count is a good thing to have although I no longer consider it a priority; I have been shooting relatively long enough to know that image quality goes beyond the pixels, and bells and whistles of the camera. Image-Stabilisation is another feature that would be nice to have although not a must-have considering the high shutter-speed I am constantly working with. I shoot for fun anyway so user-experience is something that I placed very high up on my priority-list. At the end of the day, I must enjoy the experience.

I was very fortunate to be given the rare opportunity of joining the amazing Nicky Bay (another household name) and his band of macro masters (All of them are crazy good too!) during one of their late night sessions. I noticed that everyone in the group was using a regular DSLR set-up with the exception of one, Victor Cheah, who was holding onto a camera that looked more like a “toy camera”, and with the attached DIY diffuser, it was hard for me to take it seriously at first. I didn’t really know them well, so I decided to keep my curiosity in-check and my questions to myself, out of courtesy. It was only a few days later that I began looking up his Facebook profile (very stalkerish, i know), and what i saw blew me away – the images that came from that “toy camera” were simply fantastic! I quickly got hold of Victor on Facebook the same night, who very generously shared photos of his setup. I was sold, and 6 days later, I became a convert when I bought my first ever mirrorless micro 4/3 camera, the OMD EM5 (used).

Over the next 4 months, I sold all my canon gears and further expounded on Victor’s ]  ideas, and as they say, the rest is history. What I have learnt from my journey, albeit a very short and intense one, is that in my obsessive pursuit of getting the “best images” possible, I had ultimately compromised on my first love, which was going out there and looking for things to observe and admire. I still take mediocre photos now but have never been happier! 

Some of my “experiments”. Quite hilarious, some of them 🙂
My first generation DIY diffuser on OMD EM5 next to the enormous Canon 60d dual-flash set-up.
My 4th generation DIY diffuser on OMD EM5 next to my A7r, which I eventually sold.  Very happy with my Olympus. 🙂

In my next blog post, I hope to share with you more on my current set-up in greater detail. Thanks for reading! 

1) Click here for the types of equipments I use.
2) Click here for ideas and suggestions on how to drastically improve your macro lighting.
3) Want to learn backlighting? Click here!

Testing out my ‘new’ Mirrorless Camera. Can you spot the Caterpillar?

I have been wanting to try out this new spot since last year but could not find the appropriate time. The last time I was there, i spotted a tarantula (Selenocosmia cf. javanesis) and immediately I knew this place had potential. In the brief 2 hours that we were there, we found an abundance of invertebrates, although a good bulk managed to flee before we could even place our eyes onto the viewfinder. We will definitely be back again, probably at night the next time; Bugs are less shy then. 🙂

Here are some of the shots, of which, many were experimental. This is the beauty of macro photography, or any form of photography, for that matter – Find a subject, interpret it any way you want (ethically, of course), snap a photo, and make it your own. Don’t be afraid to push your equipments to its limits and remember to have fun while you’re at it!

1. Blue Nawab Larva (Polyura cf. schreiber).
2. Shot from the back, accentuating its “crown”.
3. Very Majestic-looking ‘beast’.
4. Time for some back-lighting fun!
5. Never be afraid to experiment with your flash! You will never know what you will get. 🙂
6.  For example: The ‘ghosting’ or flaring that you see in this picture was deliberate on my part. To obtain this ‘dreamy-looking’ shot, i handheld the flash (undiffused) directly underneath the twig, facing it slightly towards the camera.

7. I absolutely enjoyed shooting this caterpillar. Very photogenic, indeed!
8. Another attempt at back-lighting. For me, it is all about the feel of the photo. I am very conscious of that, each time I compose for a shot and snap a picture.
9. Very Epic-Looking caterpillar, if you ask me. 🙂
10. Another caterpillar we found that day, that seemed to be mimicking a twig. Pretty cool-looking.
11. You can back-lit just about anything but in my opinion, orb weavers make one of the best candidates due to its translucent body. Here is a tiny Aranae, shot with the flash fired from the side.
12. Too bad I didn’t have the time to adjust my settings. One snap and it was gone. 🙁
13. While it looked like the commonly seen Epeus flavobilineatus, this Epeus sp. is mostly yellow instead of green. A subspecies or a totally new species perhaps?
14. Compare him with the spider below – see the difference?
15. The “real McCoy”. Epeus flavobilineatus with the familiar all-green coloration.
16. I personally love to experiment with aperture settings and applying (often ridiculous) Depth-of-Field (DoF) to my shots to create a unique look. Commonly photographed subjects suddenly appear so different! Remember, it is all about the “Feel”.
17. He was obviously trying to flex for me, right here. 😀
18. This jumper was busy spinning its web when I decided to drop by to say hi. Very tiny, probably 5mm in legspan.
19. Another tiny jumper, probably from the genus Pancorius. I absolutely love jumpers for the perpetually-shocked look.
20. Jumpers are naturally very inquisitive and loves to explore everything around them, in this case, my “huge” lens!

21. I was shooting this Robberfly (<15mm) when I noticed that it was feeding. Check out its tiny prey!
22. This Springtail (?), <5mm, could not stop moving in circles! I was able to freeze it with a fast shutter-speed.
Dude, what’s up with the Duckface?
This is my macro-buddy, Manoj, who apparently loves taking selfie when I needed him the most! Thank God for a tiny mirrorless set-up, where I am able to take backlit shots by myself – Camera in one hand and flash in another.  🙂
Want to see more pictures and videos of these amazing creatures, taken with a mirrorless camera? Click here.

Hyllus diardi is arguably one of the largest Salticids in the World, and in my opinion, the most beautiful. My fascination with these macnificent jumping spiders started many years ago when I first heard about them, and was shocked to know that they actually existed in mangrove swamps, here in Singapore! It wasn’t until early last year that I set out to find and document them for myself. It took me ten, yes, TEN days (day trips) of looking around aimlessly in the mangrove swamps until I spotted my first specimen. And of all places to find it – on a dustbin! How convenient and anti-climatic. 🙂

I have now learnt to spot them pretty easily, especially the females (they have bristle-like horns protruding from the head), sometimes spotting more than one specimen in a single macro session.

Below are some of the shots I took early this year. All pictures were taken on site, handheld.

*Click on image to enlarge*
1) Oh, Hello.

2) What is not to love with a face like this?

3) Females specimens have bristle-like horns, unlike the males.
4) By adjusting the aperture, I was able to capture the contrasting background made up of some yellowish plant.

5) Check out her “moustache”. 🙂

6) I love playing with my camera settings to achieve various Depth-of-Field for each shot.
7) I stopped down the aperture from f5.6 to f11 to highlight the full glory of her abdomen.

8) To achieve this contrasted look, all i did was to place a piece of dried leaf behind the subject. Never stop experimenting (Ethically, of course) !

9) This dreamy-looking picture was achieved by removing my DIY lens hood, and pointing the flash (undiffused) directly towards the lens.

11) To achieve this shot, I illuminated the subject from the side and the front.

12) Back to normal backlighting.

Thank You, Miss spider  for being such a wonderful model. Now you can easily see why it is touted as one of the most beautiful spiders in the World. 🙂

The great thing about going Mirrorless is that it gives me the freedom to shoot as and when I feel like it, without having to worry about weight and portability issues. A perfect example would be last night, while waiting for my wife – I was in the car listening to some rock classics, when I decided to go out to find some bugs to photograph. I almost always carry my set-up everywhere I go anyway, since it is so lightweight!

These are some of the shots that I managed to capture in just under an hour and 15 minutes, at a park right next to the car lot.

*Click on Image to Enlarge*

1. This Kidney Garden Spider (Araneus mitificus), probably a sub-adult (due to its size and coloration), was found hiding under a leaf. Its abdomen reminded me of the Pringles logo.
2. It was ‘cooperative’ and did not move much so it gave me a lot of close-up opportunities!

3. Larger specimens seem to have a yellowish tinge on parts of its legs especially the tarsus and metatarsus region.

4. Another point of view.

5. Almost a frontal shot. Almost.

6. Almost a side profile. Almost.

7. What a beautiful arse! Can’t believe i actually said that!

8. This wasn’t cropped much. I added extension tubes for greater magnification and cranked up the exposure compensation!

9. A male Telamonia diminiata, commonly known as the Two-Striped Jumper that was too huge to go unnoticed.

10. A mandatory butt shot. ;P

11. I wasn’t kidding when I said I did not put down my camera. Just recompose and shoot!

12. Another mandatory side-shot.

13. Okay now, he is getting tired. Time to move on to another find!
14. A record shot, so you know what it really looks like.

15. And came along this monster.

16. I am suspecting that it is a Pancorius sp., but pls do not quote me on this.

17. What a handsome/pretty little spider!

18. It is probably about 15mm in length and it could not stop jumping, for the life of me.

19. Record shot of this magnificent jumper.

20. I found this larva (?) by accident while looking at some ants. It was probably less than 5 mm in length. Really tiny.

21. It appeared to be ‘cutting’ some parts of the plant (a dried-up flower bud?). Probably to add to its camouflage?

22. It is really amazing to see up-close how some animals, regardless of size, use their environment as a resource.
So the next time you have some time to kill, ask yourself : What interesting bugs can I find today? 🙂