Spiders and spiderwebs
In Holland, September is by far the best month for photographing spiders and spiderwebs. Our most common spider is the European garden spider, or cross spider (Araneus diadematus). The female of the species has reached their maximum size at this time, and make very large webs. You’ll see them everywhere.
If you want to photograph the garden spider in all it’s glory, but find the background a little too messy, it helps to have a few pieces of colored cardboard on hand. Place the cardboard far enough away so you don’t accidentally touch the web. A green card gives you an even, natural look, while blue suggests a sky background.
When you start your trek early in the morning, the webs are often still full of dew, making them look like a string of pearls.
Funny, isn’t it, how people can think that spiderwebs are beautiful, but spiders are scary. They often think caterpillars are dirty, but butterflies are gorgeous. But without those caterpillars, we’d have no butterflies, and without spiders, no spiderwebs. You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. But back to the photos of spiderwebs.
If a spiderweb is in good condition, you can photograph it in its entirety, and in right light, it can deliver some wonderful images. If you shoot it with a wide angle lens, you can even include the entire landscape. But it is also interesting to go looking for details.
When you shoot at two or three times actual size, you’ll find an infinite source of inspiration. It is important to work very precisely, because of the extremely shallow depth of field. When you photograph at twice actual size, it is important not to stop down smaller than f/16, and at three times actual size, no smaller than f/11. While you might gain more depth of field, there is an overall softening of the image due to diffraction.
Of course, there can not be any wind, or it will be impossible to focus at all. The “Magic Tools” to stop the the wind will not help you when photographing spiderwebs. You can read more about them on This Month – May 2011.
Top left: Lycosa tarentula is the largest European spider, photographed in Spain.
Top middle and right: These fast-walking spiders, with their long hairy legs, cause people with arachnophobia the most problems.
Middle: Two pictures of the same garden spider, with different colored backgrounds.
Bottom: These are my first attempts at photographing details of spiderwebs with dew drops. I plan to study this subject much more in the coming month.