I enjoy doing this.
Last night while out poking around, I chanced upon a fairly small spider that, once I unloaded the images, motivated me to go out and get better, closer ones. I’m very pleased with this portrait:
Some spiders are menacing, or ominous. Some are even cute. This one’s just ugly. In fact, I see a resemblance to that Star Wars character that lost his arm over bringing a blaster to a cantina lightsaber fight…
Now, it’s funny; I suspect somehow this is not going to be a crowd favorite, and might even provoke some negative reactions from at least a few people, hard as that may be to imagine. But I’m fine with that, and in fact, posted this precisely because it may generate those reactions. It’s not just the aspect that not everything in the world is pretty, or should be – there is also a certain delight in showing an image that elicits any kind of strong reaction. That’s often what photographers want; that’s what anyone who creates something wants. I didn’t make the spider ugly, but I was able to bring this aspect to the viewer (hopefully, anyway) dramatically and undeniably. The page came up and said, “Boo!” – and if you reacted, it worked as intended.
Moreover, from a sheer photographic standpoint it’s pretty solid. Not just the eyes are in focus, but the whole ‘face’ and starting down the pedipalps, even though you can see the focus is so short at this magnification that the posterior lateral eyes (the ones sitting wide that face off to the sides) are even fuzzing out. The spider measures about a millimeter between the main eyes that we’re focusing on – those back eyes are, what, 0.2mm away? How easy was it to miss this crucial distance, do you think? [I have a few frames where I did, just to let you know.] And the light angle shows the shapes and coloration very well – there’s a catchlight in four of those eyes, for dog’s sake! Everything angled down across the frame, virtually no distractions – there are a lot of ways this image could have been worse, and I know all of them from experience. This was shot handheld (though braced against a fence) and focused in pitch darkness by the light of a flashlight – since this was with the reversed 28-105mm (and the same lighting rig seen there,) focus is achieved by distance, and not assisted by the camera or lens at all. There was definitely skill involved, but I cannot discount the huge part that luck played as well.
This is a crab spider, by the way – I’m almost certain a Tmarus angulatus, and she measures 15mm from the back of the abdomen to the tip of those forelegs. Definitely a female, and the leaf that she’s perched upon, wrapped up tight in webbing, is probably protecting her eggs – that odd shape is what captured my attention in the first place, and then I spotted the grey line atop when I leaned in for a closer look. Remarkably cooperative, too; after the first pics like the one here, I went back out to find that she’d moved from position, but a couple of gentle nudges with a bit of pinestraw (about the only use it can be put to) caused her to return to the same place, just facing the other direction. An awful lot of species would panic and drop from sight, or scamper into deep cover, so credit to the model’s blasé attitude towards direction from the photographer.