Feature Journal

Back-lit Macro Attempts

12 October 2013

Back-lighting is not a conventional way to light up subjects in nature and especially in macro photography, because it is inherently difficult to carry or manipulate the lights around a tiny subject which might disappear at any point of time. But then again, that’s also what makes successful shots unique. Note that back-lighting does not work well with many subjects – I personally only attempt back-lighting on subjects with bodies that allow light to pass through, or with an elaborate outline, such as abundance of hair. On this night, a rare subject presented the perfect opportunity to practise back-lighting!

    Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae) - DSC_3737
  1. Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae)

    Owlfly larva with a bristle-like outline and thin, slightly translucent body seems to be perfect to put my flash behind.

  2. Gray's Leaf Insect (Phyllium bioculatum) - DSC_5061
  3. Leaf Insect (Phyllium sp.)

    The leaf insect has a thin wafer-like body, allowing light to pass through easily.

  4. Forest Leaf Grasshopper (Systella rafflesi) - DSC_7530
  5. Forest Leaf Grasshopper (Systella rafflesi)

    The forest leaf grasshopper is another good example of a thin translucent body with intricate leaf-like veins that can be highlighted with back-lighting.

  6. Caterpillar - DSC_6184
  7. Caterpillar

    A large caterpillar’s lengthy hairs can be highlighted with a flash behind

  8. Whip Scorpion (Thelyphonida) - DSC_3154
  9. Whip Scorpion (Thelyphonida)

    Not a typical subject for back-lighting, but the Whip Scorpion has a really interesting tail/whip that shows up differently with light from behind.

  10. Water Measurer (Hydrometridae) - DSC_6520
  11. Water Measurer (Hydrometridae)

    Back light on a water measurer, not too impressive.

  12. Banded Flower Mantis (Theopropus elegans) - DSC_3616
  13. Banded Flower Mantis (Theopropus elegans)

    A banded flower mantis lighted from a different angle, creates a bit of a silhouette and an interesting feel to the photo.

  14. Dead Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys sp.) - DSC_3122
  15. The Dead Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys sp.)

    The Dead Leaf Mantis has shoulder “wings” which might show up like an X-ray by shining a light through it.

  16. Spotted Tree Frog (Nyctixalus pictus) - DSC_0582
  17. Spotted Tree Frog (Nyctixalus pictus)

    A spotted tree frog at this position allowed me to try to “see through” it.

  18. Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9963
  19. Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.)

    One of my favorites, a tarantula running about on a tree trunk with back-lighting causing the hairy exterior to stand out prominently.

  20. Caterpillars - DSC_8985
  21. Caterpillars

    Another bunch of hairy caterpillars, lots of hair means a good opportunity!

  22. Eight Spotted Crab Spider (Platythomisus octomaculatus) - DSC_3032
  23. Eight Spotted Crab Spider (Platythomisus octomaculatus)

    In this photo of the eight spotted crab spider, back-lighting causes a different view on the leaf rather than the actual subject.

  24. As with every blog post, here are the other interesting finds for the night. Many exotic looking finds too!

    Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae) - DSC_3567
  25. Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae)

    How the owlfly larva looked in the leaf litter. Much less significant and well camouflaged.

  26. Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae) - DSC_3579
  27. Owlfly larva (Ascalaphidae)

    Look at the eyes and mandibles… woahhh…

  28. Net-Casting Spider (Deinopis sp.) - DSC_3527
  29. Net-Casting Spider (Deinopis sp.)

    Simple shot of a Net-Casting Spider, not so simple after all as it is almost always facing down.

  30. Mating Beetles - DSC_3529
  31. Leaf chafer beetles (Scarabaeidae)

    Pair of beetles busy working hard for the next generation

  32. Mangrove Longhorn Beetle (Aeolesthes holosericeus) - DSC_3530
  33. Mangrove Longhorn Beetle (Aeolesthes holosericeus)

    The common Mangrove Longhorn Beetle

  34. Mangrove Longhorn Beetle (Aeolesthes holosericeus) - DSC_3534
  35. Mangrove Longhorn Beetle (Aeolesthes holosericeus)

    Always an easy subject for face shots!

  36. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia pseudocentrodes) - DSC_3539
  37. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia pseudocentrodes)

    A common Orb Web Spider

  38. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia pseudocentrodes) - DSC_3541
  39. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia pseudocentrodes)

    The elongated abdomen is pretty typical for this species.

  40. Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnathidae) - DSC_3546
  41. Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnatha sp.)

    Big-Jawed Spider busily running up and down its web to harvest prey.

  42. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae) - DSC_3550
  43. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae)

    Male Orb Web Spider, usually presented as a tiny speck on leaves

  44. Grasshoppers (Caelifera) - DSC_3556
  45. Grasshoppers (Caelifera)

    Many grasshoppers, big and small resting on the leaves on a wet night.

  46. Flatid Planthopper (Flatidae) - DSC_3561
  47. Flatid Planthopper (Flatidae)

    Very common Flatid Planthopper

  48. Ground Spider (Zodariidae) - DSC_3605
  49. Ground Spider (Zodariidae)

    Ground Spider with a captured ant

  50. Katydid (Asiophlugis temasek?) - DSC_3620
  51. Katydid (Asiophlugis temasek)

    The bug-eyed Katydid

  52. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae) - DSC_3623
  53. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae)

    Haven’t seen this Checkered Beetle in quite a while!

  54. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae) - DSC_3625
  55. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae)

    Some actually mistake this to be a tiger beetle.

  56. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae) - DSC_3638
  57. Checkered Beetle (Cleridae)

    Lots of details on the eyes and face of the Checkered Beetle

  58. Weevil (Curculionidae) - DSC_3648
  59. Weevil (Curculionidae)

    The usually shy looking Weevil

  60. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_3655
  61. Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.)

    Here’s one of the smallest Huntsman Spiders carrying her egg sac. It measures only 1cm including legs wide spread.

  62. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_3664
  63. Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.)

    Top view of the Huntsman Spider, egg sac not too easily visible to the naked eye.

  64. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae?) - DSC_3684
  65. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae)

    Thanks to Chris, we got to shoot this very shy Flower Mantis nymph

  66. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae?) - DSC_3690
  67. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae)

    At times, it might pose for us.

  68. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae?) - DSC_3694
  69. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae)

    Most of the time, it had the back facing us. We called it “du shen”, referencing to an old God of Gamblers movie where the main character often had his back to the camera.

  70. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae?) - DSC_3698
  71. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae)

    It had a very curious look despite being so shy

  72. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae?) - DSC_3706
  73. Flower Mantis nymph (Hymenopodidae)

    Rare moment facing the camera!!!

  74. Moth - DSC_3739
  75. Moths

    Lots of moths attracted to our lights

  76. Nursery WebSpider (Pisauridae) - DSC_3745
  77. Nursery Web Spider (Pisauridae)

    The Nursery Web Spider is quite common here, but frequently mistaken as a lynx spider.

  78. Huntsman Spider (Thelcticopis sp.) - DSC_3754
  79. Huntsman Spider (Thelcticopis sp.)

    Huntsman Spider. For the record, this used to be under Clubionidae.

  80. Velvet Ant (Mutillidae) - DSC_3762
  81. Velvet Ant (Mutillidae)

    Beautiful velvet ant, also known as the “Cow Killer” for the extremely painful sting.

  82. Velvet Ant (Mutillidae) - DSC_3767
  83. Velvet Ant (Mutillidae)

    Bright colours to warn you perhaps?

  84. Stick Insects (Phasmatodea) mating - DSC_3775
  85. Stick Insects (Phasmatodea)

    Lovely pair of mating Stick Insects, looked dull at first glance but they are really quite cute!

  86. Snail (Gastropoda) - DSC_3768
  87. Snail (Gastropoda)

    Interesting looking snail dangling from a leaf

  88. Snail (Gastropoda) - DSC_3778
  89. Snail (Gastropoda)

    @[email protected]

  90. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae) - DSC_3779
  91. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae)

    Small little Wandering Spider running about on the leaf litter

  92. Harvestman (Opiliones) - DSC_3790
  93. One of the spiny looking Harvestman (Opiliones)

    One of the spiny looking Harvestman

  94. Harvestman (Opiliones) under UV light - DSC_3794
  95. One of the spiny looking Harvestman (Opiliones)

    Behold, it fluoresces under ultraviolet light!

  96. Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.) - DSC_3796
  97. Huntsman spider (Heteropoda sp.)

    Some called this the unicorn for the tuft of hair in front.

  98. Baby scorpions - DSC_3805
  99. Bark scorpion babies (Lychas scutilus)

    Baby scorpions! Lots of fat ones!

  100. Scorpion with babies - DSC_3826
  101. Bark scorpion (Lychas scutilus)

    And here’s the proud mother!

  102. Scorpion with babies - DSC_3830
  103. Bark scorpion (Lychas scutilus)

    Her babies literally climbing over her head.

  104. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.) - DSC_3834
  105. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.)

    Huntsman spider freshly squeezed from its moult.

  106. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.) - DSC_3837
  107. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.)

    This was very high up, had to raise my camera way above my head to get this shot.

  108. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.) - DSC_3839
  109. Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.)

    Spinning crazily on its silk, so it allowed me to get a ventral view.

  110. Caterpillar - DSC_3844
  111. Caterpillar

    Beautiful caterpillar with “wings”. Possibly a hawkmoth larva?

  112. Caterpillar - DSC_3855
  113. Caterpillar

    Clearer view of the tail

  114. Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_3857
  115. Jumping spider (Portia sp.)

    Looks like a Portia, but no tufts of hair to mimic detritus on the body.

  116. Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_3859
  117. Jumping spider (Portia sp.)

    Side view

  118. Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_3862
  119. Jumping spider (Portia sp.)

    Dorsal view, first required view for identification of most invertebrates.

The complete album can be viewed here.

The back-lighting macro album can be viewed here.




Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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