Welcome to my second CygnusTech blog entry on Aussie Macro Photos! This submission will focus on my first trip to Cairns, Queensland. The local home of Bridgette, whom this website belongs to.
I have been to Queensland a couple times as a musician but never as a macro photographer, and never as far as North Queensland. I was invited by one of my diffuser clients, Maurice Allan to tag along with him and share accommodation for a weeklong trip focused entirely on looking for rare insects. How could I say no? There was a slight hiccup at the airport and Maurice’s ticket was denied at the terminal due to overbooking. So, I boarded the plane myself and arrived in Cairns a few hours later. When I stepped off the plane I was hit with what I call “the Malaysian uppercut”. It’s the type of intense humidity I’ve only experience when travelling to Southeast Asia for macro photography. It’s overwhelming. You can taste the water in the air. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat. I just knew it was going to be prime weather conditions for an abundance of wildlife.
I picked up my luggage bag off the carousel and met Bridgette out the front of the airport. We went straight to the Cairns Botanic Gardens which were just as I predicted…teeming with wildlife! A short walk revealed hundreds of species I’ve never before. I was in paradise!
After just a week there I ended up with over 5000 shots. Here are a small handful of highlights.
First up is a quite common Omoedus swiftorum jumping spider in the garden, but was my first experience seeing one. That goes for all the subjects I will be posting. This spider feeds predominately on green tree ants and can be found near their folded leaf nests waiting for a sole ant to venture into their vicinity.
Next up is a lichen huntsman: Pandercetes gracilis. I’ve been wanting to see one of these for so long! I was very excited to see one very low to the ground. They’re usually high up in the trees and so hard to see as they are masters of camouflage by hiding flat amongst lichen and moss. This one was a bit easier to detect, lying on this smooth slender tree trunk.
Here we have a beastly Papilio aegeus Orchard Swallowtail caterpillar which was the first thing I saw when I arrived at the gardens. It was right near the entry overlooking the cafe. At the time it was the biggest larvae I have seen however shortly after that I encountered the gigantic and impressive Cairns Birdwing larvae. This caterpillar was quite relaxed and didn’t move at all despite my bright flash bursts allowing me to dial in the perfect exposure to show off its beautiful textures and hues.
Changing things up with a very different style of shot to my usual photos. This dragonfly (Odonata) was perched on barbed wire way above head height on the fenced perimeter of the gardens. I opened my aperture up to get the bokeh of the sky and trees in.
As the sun goes down the frogs come out! We returned to the gardens for a night walk. Armed with head torches and focusing lights we found a variety of frogs. I was so excited because It was my first time seeing a frog in Australia! Here is a gorgeous Dwarf Tree Frog (Litoria Bicolour/Fallax complex). I deliberately underexposed the flash by 1.5 stops to get the velvety texture of the shiny frog out and reduce the flash reflection in the frogs eye. I’m really happy with how this one came out.
An insect extremely high on the wishlist and possibly the star of the show! It was great to team up with Bridgette for her Let’s Go Buggin tour because she knows exactly where to find this extremely tiny Lace bug (Tingidae.) Dubbed the “Midgey Bridgey” after her discovery. This insect is only 2-3mm long, so I attached the Raynox250 and manually focused to maximum magnification for this photo. They don’t seem to stop moving so it was an extremely difficult shot to execute. After many failed attempts I nailed this one and to my surprise I captured its elytra opening up into a stained glass looking cup. I couldn’t believe it! I showed Bridgette and she was astonished too. Definitely something for further investigation on this unique species
I have dreamed of this image for a long time and It was without a doubt, the most difficult shot I have ever taken. I noticed this Menneus netcaster wrapping up an egg sac on the top of an embankment as it shimmered in my headlamp. I had to stand with my left leg outstretched to anchor myself. My right arm completely outstretched and holding the camera with one hand with screen folded out. I had Mosquitoes on my eyes and a huge jungle huntsman right next to my head which was quite an anxiety-inducing experience. It took many minutes waiting for the Netcaster to stop gyrating and swaying in the wind and its legs frantically spinning the ball to get this symmetrical shot. My shoulder and wrist were burning from the strain! I will never forget it. Persistence pays off and I’m glad I had friends there to witness it with me.
Last up is an absolutely stunning Cymbacha saucia crab spider. At only 5-6mm the macro lens reveals details which are invisible to the naked eye. I was blown away at the orange little face and fingerprint style abdomen. This has got to be the most unique crab spider I’ve seen! I love Thomisids so much! This was the very last shot I took before heading to the airport to catch my flight. I noticed just as I was leaving the garden. It was meant to be to finish off an incredible adventure to the tropics.
That wraps it up for this instalment. I hope you’ve enjoyed a little glimpse into the local insects from Cairns. A Huge thanks to Bridgette and Maurice for having me. It was tough to just pick 8 out of 5000 images! If you would like to follow more of my work or purchase my custom macro diffuser to get the soft diffused light you see in these images, you can message me on Instagram @cygnustech or email me email@example.com