Thursday, October 2, 2008

Comes the hunter

I know. It's been quite a while since my last blog update. It's been a weird couple of months, but we won't go in to that.
Instead, I want to talk about some recent work, including this image of a spider capturing its prey. I've always liked spiders. I know, some people think they're creepy, but I think they're beautiful.
I learned a new respect for spiders while I was living in Texas, a state which — along with many great things — boasts several species of poisonous spiders. One of the nastiest is the brown recluse, which has the annoying habit of hiding in shoes and other places unsuspecting people put their extremities. This usually tends to annoy the brown recluse, with not very good consequences for the people.
But this old girl isn't a brown recluse. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what kind of spider she is. If anyone can identify her, let me know.
I actually spotted her when I walked through a portion of her web while I was doing yard work over the weekend. She was hanging around in a corner of the small patio at the back of my house.
I thought about grabbing some images of her then, but decided to wait until after dark. That, I figured, would give her a chance to rebuild the portion of her web I'd destroyed, as well as give me an opportunity to make some cool photos using controlled light.
So, that's what I did. About 9 p.m., I started gathering my equipment, after checking to be sure she was still there. Spiders sometimes get annoyed when their webs get destroyed and move somewhere else, out of the way of danger. She, however, was right where I expected her to be.
I set up a single strobe on a light stand — a Nikon SB-28 for anyone who's interested — and wired it up with a Pocket Wizard radio remote. You can do all kinds of things with Pocket Wizards. I've got four and I love them. If you have any thoughts about working with off-camera flash or remote imaging, PW's are definitely the way to go.
Anyway, I set the single light about parallel to the web and slightly above. I wanted to try to side-light the web and the spider, to add some texture and give her a sense of space against the black background of my backyard. I turned on the small, single bulb that passes for light on my patio, which gave me enough to tell she was there, but not even close to enough to focus.
The only macro, closeup lens I own is an older Nikkor 55mm f3.5 manual focus lens. It's a great lens and it belonged to my father. I inherited it when he died a few years ago. In my opinion, it's probably one of the best lenses ever made for macro photography.
I ended up using a small, pen-light flashlight to give me enough light to see through the viewfinder and focus. I used a fairly small aperture to provide some depth of field. I usually like very narrow depth of field when I'm doing macro work. It tends to make the main subject pop out of the overall image. But, with the dark background, I figured it wasn't going to matter and it was going to give me enough depth of field to ensure the spider was in focus.
I was shooting away, holding the camera with one hand and the pen light with the other, when all of a sudden she darted completely out of the frame. I took a quick look to see what was going on and found her pouncing on some small insect that had stumbled into her web.
I refocused and reframed and was able to capture this image (and a few others) as she trussed up her prey. (Check out my Flicker page for more images.)
I especailly like this image because of the texture of the light and the play against the shadows. For me, there's just enough of the web illuminated by the cross-lighting so she's not just hanging in space, but not too much to distract from the main subject, her.
I know, some people are not going to like what they see as the brutality of a spider catching a helpless insect and killing it. But that's part of life. It's the way things work in this world. We're all either predator or prey.
Plus, for me, I was able to capture an image of something that most people don't get the chance to see. Sometimes, I'd rather be lucky than good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Cool Shot!