Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Araneus cavaticus (The Barn spider)

These were some of the most difficult pictures I have ever taken. It took me over 50
tries to get it right. Her web was blowing in the wind and despite appearances it was
bright and sunny on each side as well as above the web. My cameras auto-sensors
had to be tricked into firing the flash at the right time. In this rare time when my
cameras all manual controls failed because of the flash and the wind. The spider
flew in and out of focus at speeds requiring me to shoot with at least a 250 shutter
speed and so to get depth of field I had to use a flash. My shots of it without one
are blurred and lack the depth of field I crave in my pictures. It took me over an hour
of standing in the same place to capture these pictures.

An important note here. It is pretty well proven spiders lack ears--but they are able
to detect sound. I had to talk to my dad as I was taking these shots just before I left
to the train station. They were taken outside dad's house by the garage. The spider
reacted to every sound. Even my whisper near the web made it jumpy. In fact–the dog
inside my dad’s house–(not very loud) made the spider jump every time. I should have
documented this on digital video. This spider is clearly sensitive enough to sound
that it can detect people talking from up to 30 feet away. The dog barking inside
being as far away and slight a sound that was–seemed to scare it the most. There was
no question–it only jumped and did jump in a fearful way–when I talked near it
as I photographed it–and when the dog barked. This is one sensitive spider. Either
it’s hairs or it’s web or both provide a form of detecting sound. This was one tough
picture to take.

As usual I set everything on manual and then trick the auto-flash sensors with a small
light to get it to fire at the right brightness. The flash does have a manual control--
but it's second sensors in almost all conditions produce a supplementary setting
appropriate for the scene. Using high powered macro lenses and with very bright
light both above and below the spider confused my camera. It was very difficult--but
I got it done. These Barn spider pictures are some of the best I've done for larger
spiders. We don't have very many spiders this large in the Dalles--but we do have
Barn spiders here as well. I just have not found one yet. Barn spiders can get over
15mm in body length and thus are large and not what I'm used too. The difficult
lighting aside--I really like these pictures. There are many more and they have a
pro-poster-perfect detail of 6.1mp. The full sized versions are for sale as are all my
pictures--e-mail me for further.

She turned through her web back and forth as they do to both view and bewilder potential predators when afraid. This is a ventral view.


chaindropz said...

I liked your spider pictures and I have some for you on ringdrops.blogspot.com It is a little different than what is in the book.(no daddylonglegs spider yet) I have also observed the granddaddy longlegs spider in an old building where I used to work. We had a lot of orb web wevers and I made it my mission to rid the place of orb web wevers. When I did the cobweb wevers (daddylonglegs) took over. I wanted the orb web spiders back and I was suprised to see that the daddylonglegs would kill a much bigger spider.I never saw them do the killing. The bigger spider would just fall to the floor dead or dieing. One day I saw two daddylonglegs square of and they struck at each other with surprising reach. I am afraid of them although there fangs are not suposed to be long enough to penetrate human skin.

Richard said...

This is the species of spider that was Charlotte in E.B. White's children's story Charlotte's Web.

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