Welcome to Look Closer with Dr. Mat

Hi, welcome to the first Look Closer with Dr. Mat blog entry for Aussie Macro Photos!

Usually, my media of choice is video though my YouTube channel Look Closer, however when Bridgette asked if I would like to contribute to the blog series on her website…how could I refuse?

Unlike the rest of the photographers currently showcased here at Aussie Macro Photos, I am based in Western Australia, so many of my photographic subjects will be different from those found on the east coast.  I am lucky enough to live in a global biodiversity hotspot and I’m really looking forward to sharing a few of the weird and wonderful creatures with you all.

Dr Mat in the field Look Closer with Dr. Mat Blog on Aussie Macro Photos

For my first blog post I’d like to share some images of what must be the most photographed group in my entire portfolio.  Peacock spiders!

While B-Shizz has managed to find Maratus volans, and Bridgette is yet to find her first peacock spider, during the right time of the year the bright little beasties are pretty much everywhere over here in WA.  Last year I managed to track down 25 different species between Kalbarri and Esperance and these are a few of my favourite images and species.

Without a doubt, finding the Starry Night peacock, Maratus constellatus, was a highlight of my peacock year.  This species has only been recorded a few times before and all from the same location; Kalbarri National Park.  After a long day of fruitless searching I finally found two of these little boys just before sun down on literally on the same individual bush as they had first been seen a few years earlier.  I think the composition of this image, standing on the end of a twig staring into the great beyond, really fits with the starry night theme of this species.

Peacock Spider Maratus australis Look Closer with Dr. Mat

Starry Night peacock, Maratus constellatus

Maratus speciosus is our bread-and-butter species over here in Western Australia.  I can go to a fair selection of beaches in the Perth metropolitan region during the right season and find one of these little blue boys for a photo shoot.

They are not shy and will happily display for a female right in front of your camera.

While this may not be a technically perfect macro image I really love it anyway.  The colours, sense of depth and lines of this image all come together to really capture the moment.

Peacock Spider Maratus speciosus Look Closer with Dr. Mat

Maratus speciosus

Next up is a species I have found a few times over the last few years but have never managed to see a display.  Maratus bubo, the Horned-owl peacock. This species is the opposite of the previous one as it is known from just one location.  A soggy swamp near the south coast. You really have to earn a photo of this species. From the number of images I‘ve seen I suspect that I am one of maybe 10 people to have ever photographed the Horned-owl peacock.  Privileged indeed.

It would be easy to think that I have totally oversaturated this image to make it eye-catching.  The truth is that I have barely edited this image at all.  They really are this vivid in real life.  The amazing colours and patterns of this group of spiders is what has shot them to internet stardom.

Maratus bubo Peacock Spider Look Closer

Maratus bubo, the Horned-owl peacock

For all of the peacock spiders I have seen, I have relatively few images of a male in full display.  This is because all of my peacock images are shot on location. It can be a bit tricky to arrange for a display to happen in a convenient spot for a photoshoot while being stabbed by prickly plants or being bitten by mosquitoes, ants and ticks.

This image of Maratus australis is the exception.  While there were certainly monstrous mosquitoes in abundance at this site, I happened to wander up to this patch, spot a male on top of a stick and then he very kindly started displaying as soon as I had him focus. A five-minute job and the image was in the bag.  Of course this doesn’t count the 700km drive to get to Esperance!

Maratus australis Look Closer Dr. Mat Blog

Maratus australis

And those are four of my favourite Peacock spider species and images. Hopefully, there are many more to come in 2021!

If you’d like to see some more of my adventures with the weird and wonderful life of Western Australia, please head across to my YouTube channel Look Closer and subscribe for my video content.

All photos were taken with Olympus E-M1 ii; the M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens; Godox TT350 and the amazing CygnusTech diffuser.

If you’re interested, my camera gear is very similar to Bridgette’s and Brenden’s (CygnusTech) set up… and I have just upgraded to the Olympus EM1 iii.

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