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Archive for the ‘Arachnids’ Category

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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This past weekend I spotted an unusual-looking spider at Huntley Meadows Park. I took this shot from a distance, so I didn’t capture all of its wonderful details, but it looks to me like a Triangulate Orb Weaver spider (Verrucosa arenata), also known as an Arrowhead Spider.

The spider was hanging in mid-air, which helped a slight bit with focusing, but Arrowhead Spiders are less than a half inch in size (about one cm), so it was a bit of a challenge getting any kind of shot with my telephoto zoom lens extended to 600mm.

Arrowhead Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I know that spring has truly arrived when I start to walk around with a macro lens on my camera. I captured this shot of a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) on the boardwalk yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park.

As I was walking into the park, a departing fellow photographer alerted me to the presence of the spiders, so I changed lenses in the hope that I would see one. Most of the winter months I have been using my Tamron 150-600mm lens to shoot birds and other wildlife, but I had my Tamron 180mm macro lens with me. It’s amazing how my field of vision changes with the shift in lenses. With the long lens, I am used to looking up and out, in part because it has a minimum focus distance of 8.9 feet (1.7 meters). With the macro lens, I am am scanning a much smaller area, primarily near my feet and just beyond.

Eventually I located a jumping spider. It seemed to be spending most of its time in the cracks between the synthetic boards of the boardwalk, but occasionally would venture out. Despite its name, the Bold Jumping Spider seemed to be pretty timid. In fact, I never did see it jump—it seemed content to crawl slowly.

The coolest thing about jumping spiders, of course, is their eyes. I am absolutely mesmerized by their multiple eyes and I was really happy that I was able to capture some reflections in the eyes. The reflections are most noticeable in the head-on shot, but they are also visible in the action shot. It’s a fun challenge to try to capture action when this close to a subject, but somehow I managed, though the higher shutter speed needed when shooting handheld meant that that my depth of field was pretty limited.

Bold Jumping Spider

Bold Jumping Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I arrived at the marsh in the early morning hours, it looked like the spiders had been busy all night preparing decorations for Halloween—there were spider webs everywhere.

The webs seemed to have been more hastily constructed than those of the orbweavers that I have observed recently and there did not appear to be any spiders in the center of these webs. What is the purpose of these webs if the spiders are not there to secure any prey that is caught in the web?

I can’t help but admire the amazing artistry of these fascinating little creatures as I examine the interlocking lines and curves of their incredible creations.

I’ve place these images in a mosaic collage—if you want to see larger versions of the images, just click on any one of them and you’ll move into a slide show mode that lets you scroll through them quickly.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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