Just in Time for Halloween: Spider Art – Guest Article by Steve Russell

R22A6053This is that creepy time of year when spiders take center stage in the live subject macro world – they’re everywhere, displacing more palatable and photography-friendly bugs like cute little butterflies and lady bugs. But aside from the considerable creep-factor – which virtually precludes their images from ever winning photography contests – spiders make pretty fascinating, even artistic, subjects when shot in creative ways. This blog is about making photographic “lemonade” out of these eight-legged, cringe-worthy “lemons” of the macro world and here are some tips for those who want to try.

        1. Nothing like rain or dew (or frost, which hasn’t happened in my neck of the woods yet) to enhance a spider and its web. What otherwise might be invisible to the camera, are amazing strands in geometric patterns created by the reflected light off the tiny beads of water. The randomly placed water droplet balls are like distorted mirrors or magnifying glasses that add interest to the image.
        2. Shooting from a variety of directions and perspectives can make things interesting, too, especially when photographing a spider on a web. Try it from the side of the web, or from the top, or bottom, or front or back, particularly when the web glistens with water.
        3. R22A6738Try it with flash (twin or circular), which tends to darken and simplify the background and helps freeze the movement of the spider. But natural light, if there’s enough of it, can enhance the natural background colors and that’s a plus. It’s mostly flash for me in the Fall, though, since natural light is harder to come by.
        4. Keep an eye out for different species, preferably those that hang out on plants or webs. From yellowish or white crab spiders with red markings that hang out in purple butterfly bush blooms to bug-eyed jumping spiders on ivy to the hairy, scary orb weavers on their strategically placed webs. These varieties are all pretty tame, too, not like those vicious, fast-crawling, black monsters that want to attack me in my own home. No time for photographing them.
        5. Finally, spiders DO a lot of different things, like mating, emerging as babies from the egg sack, spinning and forming their webs, dismantling their webs and rolling them up in a ball, stunning their prey with paralytic bites or wrapping them up in a cocoon-like straight jackets, etc. These things are all fair game for shooting.

Just imagine one of your masterpiece photographs up on someone’s wall, especially around Halloween. Spider art. Now there’s a niche for someone.

Steve Russell

PS: A few days after I submitted the this blog and images for publication, I stumbled upon a VERY pregnant female spider looking for a spot to lay her eggs. Sure enough, the next morning I found her underneath an eve on the side of my house, totally deflated having expunged her eggs and built a protective nest around them for the winter. The last two photos are the “before” and “after” shots of the same spider.