Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SPIDERS in WINTER an unexpected find

First it got really cold here as you can see from my recent articles. Then, over a couple of days, when the snow had all finally melted, out came a few spiders as fast as the sun. This Wolf spider was one of about 5 I spotted in my front yard. Wolf spiders are well known for carrying both there eggs and there young. I was astonished to see how quickly they appered. Clearly, despite a recorded 8-20 degrees farenhight that lasted for over 2 weeks many wondering (non web building) spiders hold on and build sufficiant places to overwinter.These pics were taken just a few days ago. When a warm spell after the snow melted that had been arround for nearly a month came through. When the temp gets past about 65 degrees farenhight, the spiders and insects start comming out. No matter what time of year it is or if winter is over yet or not. I was amazed to realize that these species clearly overwinter and can survive serious temperature extremes while being burried under feet of snow for weeks or more.

This is a nearly fully grown jumping spider (Genus Salticus) about 1 cm long or so. She seems well fed and appered very fast on one particularly hot day in the sun. I captured this shot at about F32 with a directed light flash and my Cannon 10D digital SLR. Having a directed flash for lighting is a very important key to getting nice insect and spider shots.

If you don't have the money for a macro flash (most of them run about $400+) a very inexpecnive alternative can be setup. If your DSLR has all the contacts, any old extenernal flash will do. One that can be held in your hand is a real benifit. A flashgun or even a small flash ment for older cameras. If you can direct the light at the right angles, your shots will show far more detail then if shot stright on such as with a typical clip above camera flash unit. With some cameras, clever use of aliminum foil can direct light where you want it but it's not easy. It's best to buy a macro-flash unit like those used by CSI detectives. However, with a bit of electronics knowledge one can build a flashgun out of a couple of old flashes that will do as good or even better a job. My favorte is a low power flash unit that I can velcro right to my lens any way I want to direct the light. I only very recently began useing it. One of it's best features is that it only uses 1 AA rechargable battery and is very small and easy to use yet procduces plenty of light up through F40+

I won't give away all my secrets, but lighting is deffinately the key to getting good spider and insect shots or macro shots in general. Light comming from right on a subject makes for a "flat" image. And does not show detail. It's incredible how my new flash equpiment works with my Cannon 10D to produce exciteing new possibilities for this summer. I have a whole new series of insect and spider shots to shoot with directed lighting. Most of my past images were not done with very much light direction. The few that did were really awesome. Sometimes things like the top of this sync works natually to throw light on the subject. This spider survived most of the winter in my house. Others clearly can survive and thrive if the sun comes out any time of year. They also are keenly aware of it, as just a few days change from freezing cold to spring temperatures in early Janurary can bring them out for a short time.

This species I hardly ever see during the winter, but this was one of the first shots I took useing directed light. It's dated 2009 but it was actually taken in mid 2006. At that time I had no professional camera gear. I only had a Kodak DX7630. It was good on the mega pixcels, but for macro I had to build everything. Lenses, and a flash director-reflector which I used to capture this shot. Showing how clear details come up when you have the lighting right. I try to shoot from angles that will brightly show either one or two sides or completely bathe the subject in light from all directions if possible with two flash units.