The grey hours

fog over nearby pondNature photographers are all familiar with the ‘golden hours,’ times right around dawn and dusk when the light conditions are often highly conducive to great photos. That is, when it’s not rainy or overcast of course, but fog – that’s another thing. It’s hardly golden, but it can be a great element in photos. Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to meet with a student, I dashed over to the nearby pond for a quick session. This, by the way, is almost the exact same view to be seen in these lightning photos.

orb web defined by fog condensationThe worst part about a sunrise fog is how low the light levels are, dragging shutter speeds down – it’s enough to make droplet and macro images extremely tricky to get unless you lug along a tripod (which I did not – the schedule was too tight to get serious about it.) So a lot of what I shot simply didn’t come out, despite taking lots of frames to increase my chances. But there were enough that did, and one of the more interesting aspects of these conditions is that it shows exactly how active spiders are, because every strand of web gathers dewdrops – not just the orb webs as seen here, but every dragline, every safety strand and travel line across branches, things that would have otherwise remained invisible. In most cases, no spider can be found; even if the web is in use, the spiders usually abandon their hunting positions to take shelter from the humidity up in their ‘safe’ location, usually one of the upper anchors of the web. They seem to know that no insects are going to be captured in such conditions, plus who knows? Maybe the web gets slippery…

One thing that they don’t seem to be bothered by, however, is dew on their own bodies; I’ve seen some spiders simply dripping with dew, attracted to them the same way it is attracted to other surfaces. And not every spider abandons their post.

unidentified orb weaver in dew-laden web with old mealThis orb weaver was alongside a deep ditch that prevented viewing from the opposite side, which would have been a better angle, but at least I managed to get it and its old prey in the same plane for the handheld shot at f4. Trickier still was placing the dark spider against a light spot in the background while simultaneously getting the fly against a dark spot for maximum contrast; believe it or not, I actually rotated the camera slightly thinking it would rotate either the web or the background for a better fit against the other. Hey, it was early…

dew-covered dandelion blossomThere were other little vignettes to be found, though there was no way I was going to pull off a lighting effect like this one, which I consider much nicer. Still, this works – gotta move on, can’t dwell on the past.

And one more, perhaps the best of the landscape shots.

foggy morning at local pondI have to point out that tree trunk on the far side, visible just above the foliage coming in from the right; it’s the same tree as the ghost shot in the previous post, though from a different angle. But of course you recognized it…

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