Tag Archives: Photography

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.

Bugs are Art

Bugs are little pieces of modern art wandering around inside and out.  I think I already knew this, but I recently stopped to notice it.  This weekend as I was picking harlequin bugs off of my miraculously surviving brussels sprout plants.  The boyfriend found a cool-looking bug on the patio chairs, and I found a cluster of bug eggs.  We watched (and tried not to aggravate) a pair of yellow jacket wasps.  Eventually I was persuaded (I was on a mission to get those harlequin bugs!) to get out my camera and take some pictures.

A harlequin bug eating a brussles sprout plant is not only a pest, but actually quite pretty.

Harlequin bug eggs are striped white and black. They remind me of the decorative balls people put in bowls on coffee tables.

I’m not sure what this is, but he’s quite majestic. The whole time I was taking this picture I was really hoping it wasn’t the biting kind of bug.

Hillbilly Eclipse Photography DIY

“Thank God for Hillbillies!” my housemate kept saying as three of us stood in the front yard taking turns viewing the eclipse through the lid of a coffee can.  As a kid, his unkempt neighbor showed him how to cut both ends off a coffee can so you can watch an eclipse through the plastic lid.  The lid blocked out most of the light, leaving just an orange outline of the crescent-shaped sun.  I’m not sure you should look through it a long time, but a quick look to track the progress of the eclipse seemed ok.  When the roomies got tired of the heat (it’s already 90° here in inland NorCal), I tried using the lid as a filter for my camera and here are the results:

Then my boyfriend remembered that we have a visible-light-blocking filter for one of my research cameras, so we outfitted the regular camera (a Cannon G9) with that and took this before it got so hazy that the light was scattering too much:


I tried, and failed, to get a pinhole camera working.  I’m not sure if this is an actual pinhole image of the eclipse, but I think it is:

All the while I was trying to get the pinhole camera working, it turns out the trees were projecting the eclipse all over the front of the house behind me through the tiny gaps between the leaves:

Do you have any home-made camera equipment?

Small, Tiny, Shrimpy

At about 4mm, the baby ghost shrimp are just big enough to see.

It had to be any day now, but I was surprised to see that the ghost shrimp eggs hatched today.  I saw something that looked like a particle of plant material floating though the water as if there was a current, but there’s no filter in my fish bowl (we call it the indoor pond).  A closer look revealed a tiny shrimp swimming rapidly around and around.  I found more of them clinging to the glass.  Mostly you can just see their eyes and stomachs, but if you look closely, you can see their tails.

I know the glass looks scummy, but I promise I changed the water yesterday and cleaned the glass… you see all the microscopic detail when you take macro shots.

The photo above was taken with a Canon G9 in macro mode fitted with a Hoya 4x diopter.

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

By now it should be clear that I’m a plant geek.  Plants are awesome.  So when I need a break, I find myself with a camera pointed at plants – most often with the macro setting.  This weekend presented an opportunity for one of those much-needed-but-all-too-rare breaks.  This time I ended up at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens with friends when we found out that the magnolias were blooming.  Who needs a better excuse than that?

KAP Flight over Pacifica State Beach, CA | publiclaboratory.org

This weekend I took a field trip with some friends to Pacifica State Beach in Pacifica, CA, to try out the Skyhook 30 Kite in high winds.  At about 30 mph, it lifts the SLR camera and the rig with no problems.  Check out my research note at the Public Lab website:

KAP Flight over Pacifica State Beach, CA | publiclaboratory.org.

Aerial Photography: Fly Along at Coal Oil Point

One day I was flipping through digital photo files that came from my hot air balloon photography rig when I realized that it almost looked like a video from the rig’s perspective.  That got me thinking about making a slideshow of pictures.  I found an open source tool on Source Forge called FotoFilmStrip and made a file with a set of photos with the same exposure (my dataset has 3 different exposures).  The program was fairly intuitive and easy to use, and like all open source projects, the price is right.  I was hoping that viewing the photos in succession like this would help me make some sort of new observation that wasn’t obvious before, but to be honest the only real benefit I can see is that it’s fun to watch.

Perhaps I’ll make slideshows for the other photo sets.