Saturday, November 13, 2010

Harvestmen and the Lady!

My wife and I were walking back from the store as things got colder and colder this winter. My eyes met this incredible sight! It is rare to be able to get a number of usable shots of a scene with 2 species in the frame. Even more rare have it happen naturally! I got several dozen usable shots at F16-F32 ISO L1.0 (100) to 400 all with my Nikon. D90 DSLR. These two posed for me and even moved sometimes and as you will see it got even better!

Using a wireless external flashgun like the SB600 or better, or a macro flash ring (I can't afford one they are $400!) might be best but a wireless flash can be very good for macro shots. In this case I just shot with my flash on M 1/1 very high output so I can shoot at a distance at F22+. Just when I thought this shot could not get any better, a tiny yellow aphid joined the party! These kinds of shots nature photographers dream about getting! This day incredibly they did happen in real life naturally and she stayed put long enough for me to take dozens of shots with different light, angles and lenses. This shot is not a setup shot at all. I don't think I could set one up like this! 3 species in one shot is rare to naturally find. I got lucky and was tired from lots of shooting but had plenty of energy when I saw this harvestmen just laying here. The cold weather made them easy to photograph.

The ladybug is in no danger here. This is a deceptive shot. The "spider" you are looking at is not a spider at all! It is actually one of the 3 main species called a "daddy long legs" called a Harvestmen. Order: Opiliones

Harvestman do not spin silk, have only 2 eyes and only one main body section. They also do not mate in the same way spiders do. They are related to spiders but often scavenge on plant material and even already dead insects or other animals.

"Lady and the Harvestmen"
I dream about finding shots setup like this, usually don't!

They also tolerate each other and do not appear to be afraid of each other as they often can be found sunning in large groups and run into each other all the time. There two eyes are up on a turret at the top of there head, you can see them if you click on this shot to see it full screen. Harvestman are difficult to identify and there are few books seriously devoted to them but this is probably a Mitopus morio. At least Mitopus sp. In the Phalangiidae family. They have no silk glands so obviously spin no web and although they have similarities to spiders, they also lack venom and any kind of serious bite. Mild mannered with 1 body section and 2 eyes no silk ability I often jokingly call them the "humanoid spiders". They are truly harmless. The ladybug is in no danger of being eaten.

Here is a Harvestmen. NOT a Spider, but a close Arachnid relative. Opiliones and below is it's other daddy long legs counterpart which actually is a spider.

Here is your average other daddy long legs. This is the true spider version. Often said rumored falsely to be the most poisonous spider in the world. This is not at all true in fact they are harmless and helpful to humans and I have yet to see a study on there venom toxicology. Notice the two separate body sections of this female long bodied cellar spider or Pholcus phalangioides I shot down stairs in this building. They are very common in homes and the daddy long legs often seen shaking in the corner to avoid being seen.

In obvious contrast here is another picture I recently took of a Harvestmen. (Opiliones) Since there genitalia differ from spiders I am not certain if this is a male of the same species seen with the ladybug (top picture in this article) or if it is a different species. I need to do some more research on Harvestmen and really want to find some books on them.

I shot most of these with several extension tubes and a 50mm lens to take detail shots of these harvestmen hanging out on a fence. Here you can see other differences, this one is probably a younger member of the group.

This is NOT a SPIDER (read above captions)
Some Harvestmen get a lot bigger then this, they often have mouth parts similar to the Camel Spider which is also NOT truly a spider. This is my finger but it is in no danger as they are not aggressive at all.

A closeup showing the palps and chelicera which are different then those of spiders. (seen facing down in this shot) 2 eyes on a small turret on head can also be seen.

We also found some interesting and large mushrooms on this walk, some of these actually grew in just a few hours, larger then they were when we first found them!

"The mushrom Forest"
"Harvestmen bar stools"
"Mushroom flowers"
These are actually the same kind of mushrooms but the wind and time has damaged them interestingly.

I had to throw another spider in here somewhere. I recently have become interested in this common species the Araneus diadematus. I have made some observations about it and other species I will talk about in a future article.

"Lone mushroom"

This one popped up alone as well. It is very small not even standing an inch tall.

Of all the interesting things I have recently photographed--including a number of Harvestmen pictures most of which I have not posted and some other spider pics I promised but have not posted yet--this ranks very high as well. This tiny snail required an old 210mm 35mm manual lens to capture it. The heavy lens setup is over a foot long and can be cumbersome but really gets the detail when it comes to close shots.

With my flash mounted on my camera again using a laminated reflector that Velcros to my flash I was able to get these pictures at F22. This snail was only about 3-4mm long total. It was half the size of the eraser on a regular pencil! So small you could fit about 3-4 of them at least on my smallest fingernail!

The colors here were hard to match. For me it is rare to find a snail like this so small and still alive. Often you can find shells, but the living creature can be hard to find. Is it a baby or full grown? How old is it? What species? I do not know but the iridescent colors were amazing. I
am lucky I've figured out how to use my limited budget lenses to shoot so close and with such detail this kind of thing. On a serious note here--even tiny snails can be dangerous as they can carry salmonella, parasites and other diseases. Snails and slugs should never be handled for this reason. Be sure and click on this picture for a larger view--use the "back" arrow in your Internet browser (top left of your screen) to get back to my site.

A WORD ON GOOD BATTERIES--AA-NiMH 2500Mah--Being a photographer and a licensed Technician class radio operator I am qualified to talk a bit about this subject as well as experienced. Some people don't realize the power of NiMH--they almost always outlast ALL those other batteries. For years rechargeable AA batteries were not up to quality with Alkaline and Lithium. NiCD batteries lasted about half as long back in the old days. Now, in the past 10 years batteries have taken a quantum leap. They often seriously exceed them especially when used in high-power demand electronic devices. Don't waste money and the environment on buying AA batteries. Try the NiMH rechargeable batteries. With a small $20 inverter you can also recharge them in your car or even buy solar chargers. These are not the old NiCDs. I never know when I'm going to find something like this recent shot so if I can at all afford it make sure I have a backup camera battery and extra charged batteries for my SB600 flash. I nearly only use NiMH rechargeable AA batteries. You can get them up to 2500mah so they last far longer then even quality Alkaline/lithium batteries. 1700-2500mAh are great for flashes and even powering DSLRs with battery grips. I used to be able to run my Rebel XTI (Canon 400D) for 2 months or more--500 pics+ before I had to recharge! I got a battery grip that let me power the camera off of If I remember right, 6 or 8 AA NiMH batteries. My Canon XTi ran great for years like that and it was a high-energy 10mp DSLR. Sadly, it was destroyed in our house fire and like everything else not covered by insurance. The higher the mAh milliamp hour) number--the longer the batteries will last per cycle. They can even often exceed lithium non-rechargeable batteries (which get very expensive!) for camera and electronic gear. In my opinion and experience from compact cameras to pro-gear--flashes to just about any device like a long range 2 way radios--the AA NiMH battery is the best format for powering devices. AAA powered devices often do not nearly last as long as they are only 700Mah or so. Also--never buy a compact digital camera just powered by 2 AA batteries! You will spend more on batteries then anything else! However, I've had great experiences with every compact camera I ever used that used 4 AA batteries. I still use one that is 12 years old! Extra power goes a long ways. I point this out because people not only waste money by buying lots of AA batteries for stuff and not using rechargeable (cost pennies or less to recharge) they ruin the environment by doing so. Every year millions and millions of toxins go into the ground and air because of not using and recycling rechargeable batteries.

More pics coming soon-- Mother, eggs and babies--The life of a dedicated American mother spider and more Harvestmen shots!