Macro Photography with Prana Eriyan
Every now and then I see photos on Instagram that really blows my mind. And Prana’s macro photography had that effect on me. You will understand what I mean once you see his photos.
Prana Eriyan is an amazing photographer from Indonesia and a conservation student. And seeing such a talented person studying conservation only brings me hope for the future of nature.
So today I am glad to introduce you to this amazing macro photographer which I’m a big fan of. I feel really honored that he accepted to answer a few questions for us telling a bit more about him and his photography.
-Tell us a bit more about you and what inspired you to become a conservationist.
I was always fascinated by animals (especially sharks, other fish, and reptiles) ever since a very young age. The way sharks are evolved to efficiently hunt their prey using advanced sensory abilities (especially electroreception) and their strong build made me watch a lot of wildlife documentaries as a kid. From those documentaries (as well as news reports), I learned that the population of sharks, as well as other animals, are threatened by human activity, such as by shark-finning and unsustainable fishing/hunting. From there, my passion for conservation grew stronger throughout the years, and I eventually chose to study conservation at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry.
-How did you first get into photography? And why you focused on macro?
I first got into photography when my parents gave me their used smartphone when I was in high school. As a high school student who uses Snapchat to socialize with my friends, I often try to find unique perspectives/angles in my shots to make my Snapchat streaks and stories less boring. One of my favorite ways to take pictures is to view things from up close, a perspective that is often overlooked or taken for granted by most people, especially to photograph small animals (e.g. lizards and insects) and plants. Whenever I see a flower or an insect, I would always use my phone’s camera to get up close to see the fascinating details that our eyes would usually miss. With my interest in reptiles and animals, I eventually started to photograph more small-sized animals, and with every shot, I discovered that there are lots of unique animals with alien-like features and behavior right in our backyards. To me, photographing animals is more than simply about getting the shot, yet to also interact with the animals, and study their behavior and advanced evolutionary features in the process. However, I only used my phone to get a few inspective shots until around May 2020: I was walking around my neighborhood when I saw a praying mantis (Hierodula sp.) and decided to let it walk on my hand. As I look at it, it stares back at me with curiosity, and acts like “a cat with an alien body”. Being fascinated, I tried to use my phone to get some shots of the beautiful animal, yet I felt like I needed to get more detail out of the shots. Eventually, I started to learn to use a DSLR camera (lent to me by my very supportive father) to focus on macro-photography.
-What equipment do you use? And what is your favorite lens for macro photography?
I use a Nikon D750, equipped with a Micro-Nikkor 105mm lens and occasionally a NiSi MC close-up filter/lens when more magnification is needed. Since the Micro-Nikkor 105mm is the only one that I have ever tried, it became my only choice for a favorite lens. I also use a Nikon SB-700 Speedlight, which is most of the time combined with an SK-Tech diffuser V2.
-How’s a typical shooting day for you? Is it more outdoor or studio?
Typically, I would start my day cycling around my neighborhood, and to plantations around my local area (Tangerang) to look for insects. Upon finding the insects, I would take them home using collection-jars and photograph them, and then releasing them back to the wild afterward. I prefer this over photographing them directly in the wild because I do not feel comfortable carrying a large and heavy camera setup around, despite enjoying cycling for long distances. I also often photograph my pet arthropods (such as mantids and jumping spiders), especially during their feeding time (around once every 2-4 days) at home.
-What’s the best shot you have ever taken? Tell us a little bit about how was the process behind the scenes to take it?
So far, my favorite shot would be a photo of an adult male Hyllus diardi jumping spider placed on top of black glass, showing the animal’s reflection. In making the shot, I had to acquire the spider from my friend’s neighborhood garden and placed the spider on an iPad’s screen. The spider was sitting on some garden plants when I saw him and I used a jar to gently catch him. Despite the somewhat simple looking picture, it was a pretty difficult photo to shoot as the jumping spider was constantly walking and sometimes jumping around the glass, leaving silk thread trails everywhere. I had to continuously clean the silk threads from the glass, whilst being gentle enough to not scare the spider, whilst also moving around to follow the spider’s movements and get my desired angles. After an hour or two, I finally got the shots I needed.
-Is there an animal you like to photograph the most? And why?
My favorite animal to photograph so far would be jumping spiders, especially large species such as Phidippus regius and Hyllus diardi. These spiders might be annoying to shoot as some of them might move around and jump on the camera lens/diffuser, yet their adorable set of eyes and curious personality made it all worth it. Jumping spiders can also be commonly found around my neighborhood and local area, oftentimes even while they are holding/eating their prey.
-What are your favorite and your least favorite things about macro photography?
I really love macro photography because I get to interact with various animals in the process, allowing me to understand them better whilst admiring their behavior and unique details. The world has a lot of very unique and exquisite looking animals, with even more unique and exquisite behaviors. Most people, however, tend to take these animals for granted or even despise these creatures due to the insignificance that these small creatures may seem. By doing macro photography, I wish to show the world how beautiful and fascinating these creatures are, despite how insignificant or bothersome they might seem to some people. My least favorite thing about macro photography would be the unpredictability of the behaviors of the animals that I photograph. Despite already observing and studying these animals, they seem to always have a few surprises up their sleeve. When photographing animals (even in captivity or in a studio setup), you always have to remember that you are never fully in control. However, the animals’ unpredictability is also among my favorite things about macro photography, as it allows me to learn more about the animals’ behavior and understand them better.
-Is there an animal you dream of photographing one day?
I really wish to photograph pit vipers. However, I still lack the proper skills and knowledge to safely approach and photograph them. Besides pit vipers, I really wish to photograph sharks, especially since they are among my all-time favorite animals.
-Wanna send a message to aspiring macro photographers out there?
If you are interested in photographing animals, start with the animals that you can find around you. There are more unique-looking animals living around us than we thought, even in our houses. If you do not have a camera, you can start practicing macro photography using your smartphone. Smartphone cameras these days are getting very good, and if your smartphone’s camera cannot focus on close-up objects, affordable clip-on macro lenses are available and can be used to start practicing macro-photography. You can also practice macro photography if you do not like insects/animals, as there are numerous everyday objects and scenes that look amazing with the right close-up angle and composition. Most importantly, and despite how cliche it might sound, do not stop exploring.
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