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Archive for the ‘Arachnids’ Category

Dragonflies seem to love to perch on this piece of rusted rebar that sticks out of the water at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I really like the juxtaposition of the man-made and natural elements in this shot of a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I spotted on Monday.

You can’t see it really well in the first shot, but there is a spider on the rebar in addition to the dragonfly.  I got a better shot of the spider later in the day. I don’t know for sure that it could capture the dragonfly, but it’s a potentially dangerous situation for the dragonfly (and I have photographed several dragonflies that had fallen prey to spiders in the past).

Eastern Amberwing


spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I know that some folks find spiders to be creepy, but I think they are beautiful, particularly when presented creatively in an image. I spotted this little spider earlier this week in a wooded area at Huntley Meadows Park.

The area in which the spider was located was pretty dark, so I decided to use  the pop-up flash on my camera. The light was a bit too powerful at such close range, so I  improvised a diffuser by slipping a plastic sleeve over the flash—when it is raining out, my Washington Post is delivered in plastic sleeves. All three of these shots were taken using the flash, but they look so different because of the direction of the ambient light. In the one that has a light background,for example, I was shooting almost directly into the light, so the flash was need to avoid getting nothing but a silhouette.

 

dramatic spider

 

dramatic spiderdramatic spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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If you go out early in the morning, you have undoubtedly seen flat dew-covered squares of web material scattered all over the ground. Yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, I decided to explore several of them, hoping to find one of the spider-architects. Eventually I was able to find and photograph one of these spiders, which are commonly known as American Grass Spiders (g. Agelenopsis) or funnel weaver spiders.

According to an article on BugGuide.net, “For this family of spiders, the web is a horizontal, sheet-like web with a small funnel-like tube off to a side (or for some species, the middle of the web). This funnel is what the family is named for, and is used by the spider for hunting and protection. The spider will lay in wait in the funnel, and when an insect flies into, or lands on the web, the spider will rush out, very quickly check to see if it is prey, and if it is prey, bite it. The venom is fast-acting on the prey, so once the prey is subdued (within a second or two), the spider will drag the prey back into the funnel (for safety while eating, and to prevent other insects from recognizing the danger that lurks on the web).”

It’s fascinating to think about all the different ways that spiders are able to capture their prey, including all kinds of webs or even without webs, as is the case with jumping spiders and fishing spiders. It makes me happy that spiders are not larger, except perhaps in some Japanese science fiction movies, or we all might be in danger.

funnel weaver spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Most of us know what it is like to change a lens on a DSLR, but what is it like when you change a lens in one of your eyes? About 48 hours ago, I had surgery to replace the lens in one of my eyes with a plastic intraocular lens (IOL). Cataracts in both of my eyes had advanced to a point where they were interfering with activities such as night driving and both my optometrist and my ophthalmologist recommended cataract surgery.

I am in an interesting situation right now, because one of my eyes has been “fixed” and one of them has not. As a result I can’t help but do a series of before-and-after comparisons by looking at the world one eye at a time.

It’s hard to describe the changes, but it may be a little easier with photographers. Do you remember the first time that you looked at a RAW image? RAW images often look dull and flat. That’s kind of the way that things look in my right (uncorrected) eye. The view is darker, dingier, and has a slight yellow cast. The colors appear desaturated and there is not much contrast.

When I look through my corrected eye, it feels like a RAW image that has been adjusted by a skilled photographer. The whites are pure white, the colors are vibrant, and sharpness and contrast have been tweaked. Interestingly, the colors are a little on the cool side, with a slight blue color cast. One thing I didn’t expect is that objects in my corrected eye are slightly bigger than in my uncorrected eye. I asked my ophthalmologist if the lens he implanted has a magnifying effect and he noted that it did not—the phenomenon I had described was caused by my myopia, which causes objects to look smaller.

Previously I was significantly near-sighted and have needed glasses since I was in the fifth grade. The corrected eye is far-sighted now and my distance vision is amazing—for the first time in my life I was able to drive a car yesterday without glasses. My near vision now is essentially non-existent. I am hoping that it will improve a little bit as my eyes continue the adjustment process, but I fully expect that I will need the kind of reading glasses that I am using at this very moment.

Here is a photo of an Orchard Orbweaver spider (Leucauge venusta) that I took recently. The woods were pretty dark and I was trying to shoot from a relatively short distance away, so I decided to use my pop-up flash. It produced too much glare off of the spider’s shiny body, so I ended up throwing a gray bandana over the flash as a makeshift diffuser. The spider had just captured a prey (I think) and I am pretty happy that I was able to capture as much detail as I did. (Normally I like to be more nuanced when using a flash on close-up subjects, but I think the dark background works well with a spider;)

When I look at the spider with my uncorrected eye, the green and yellow on the spider’s body are pale and dull and the section of the body between the yellow areas appears to be gray. Looking though the corrected eye, however, I see a bright white area in between the bright yellow markings and even the green seems brighter and more intense.

In another two weeks the lens in the right eye is scheduled to be replaced and I’ll probably start to take my newer, brighter world for granted. For now, though, all I have to do is close one eye at a time to see what a difference a change in lens can produce.

Orchard Orbweaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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The simple shape and spare palette of spiderwort plants (g. Tradescantia) really appeal to me and I found myself taking innumerable photos of them during a visit with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia this past weekend. Be sure to check out Cindy’s blog for some awesome colorful images of many of the other flowers that we observed.

My friends all know that I have a warped sense of humor, so it would come as no surprise to them when I confess that I can’t help but think of an abnormal growth on an arachnid every time that I use the word “spiderwort.” As the weather continues to warm up, I’m pretty confident that I will soon be featuring images of spiders, warts and all.

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This spooky spider image that I took late Friday afternoon while hiking along part the Potomac Heritage Trail is probably more suitable for later in the month, but I just couldn’t wait until Halloween to share it.

Normally when I use fill flash I try to be subtle, attempting to add a little pop without making it obvious that I used flash. In this case, you can’t help but notice my use of the popup flash. Normally I would take a shot of a spider like this with my macro lens, but I was travelling light with just my superzoom Canon SX50. The 50x zoom of this camera has helped to bring distant subjects closer, but I had never tried to use the camera’s macro mode. I quickly learned that you have to be really close to your subject, literally only a few inches away. I was pretty happy when I was able to get the second shot below, but wanted to add to the drama of the shot.

I dropped the exposure compensation in the camera down to a minus three stops and got my favorite shot. The darkened sky and the way that the flash illuminates the spider give the image a kind of creepy look that feels appropriate for a spider that was just about at eye level.

spooky spider

spooky spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m always happy to see a black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia). I love its colorful patterns and its intricate web (and apologies to readers who are totally creeped out by spiders). I spotted this beauty this past weekend in a patch of goldenrod at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

Argiope aurantia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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