Spiders Are Art

An orb weaver that lives in the patio light.

This post is probably not for the faint of heart.  This week, I’ve been noticing a lot of spiders in and around my house.  I don’t know if it is because there are actually more of them (in terms of numbers, not species) or for some reason I’m just noticing them more.  I do know I’ve seen more dangerous spiders in the last two weeks that I’ve seen in the last two years living in this house (3 black widows and 2 brown widows, plus one more black outside).  At any rate, we’ve got a lot of spiders both in terms of numbers of individuals and species diversity.  This afternoon, I got out my camera and tried to document some of them… and boy are they cool looking!

Carefully photographing these spiders, I quickly learned what works and what doesn’t to get a decent picture.  I used a Canon G9 in macro mode for these.  Here are some spider photography tips:

  1. Get close but use caution.  You’ll get much better detail if you can get your lens close.  If you’re paying attention to the posture of the spider, you can get an idea of how comfortable it is with you being near it.  And remember that your hands aren’t as close to the spider as the preview screen makes it seem.
  2. Don’t sacrifice your safety to get close – you can always crop later.
  3. Watch where you put your hands, feet, elbows (I often make use my whole body to stabilize a shot).  If you’re photographing in spider habitat, there are likely other spiders around you.
  4. Mostly the spiders are more scared of you than you are of them.  They don’t want to bite you; they’d much rather run.  Biting you does nothing for them – it’s just a waste of their resources for no food – so don’t give them a reason to do it.  Don’t corner them or squish them.
  5. Over expose the shot.  A brighter shot will expose the detailed markings on a dark spider.  The meter on the preview screen is going to tell you that your shot is overexposed.  Don’t believe it.  Let the background be completely washed out.
  6. Don’t disturb their webs.  Breaking the webs scares the spiders.  It can also make your lens sticky.
  7. Look high and low, not just at eye level, for potential subjects.  You’ll find different species this way.

Black widow in the crevice under a window.

A daddy long legs

The belly of a daddy long legs

This hairy guy lives in the rag laundry bin.

This one was very shy. It kept hiding before I could get the settings right.

Mystery spider living in a web tunnel.

Another shy one that kept running back into a crevice. It reminds me of a Buggalow from Futurama. I’m also pleased to see that it is eating a June bug.

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About micheletobias

I lead two lives - one as an artist and the other as a scientist. More and more I'm finding my two worlds colliding, and it's not the disaster you might expect. View all posts by micheletobias

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