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Liz Bickel | all galleries >> Everything: Multiple Galleries >> My Digital History: Year by Year >> History of 2017 > The Story Behind "The Spider"
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The Story Behind The Spider
05-NOV-2017 copyright Elizabeth Bickel

The Story Behind "The Spider"

From my Gallery "The Spider":
Click on the Link to see the entire gallery.

This spider became sort of an obsession for 2 days. One afternoon, I noticed the web. Because it was in a place where I normally walk past several times a day, I considered knocking the web down. But then, I figured that if there was a spider (the web was empty at that time), she might get rid of some of the biting insects that were annoying me. Spiders are also supposed to be good for the environment. So I decided to leave things along until the next day.

Very late that night, I went outside to put my dogs out. It was a moonless night and very dark. Out of curiosity, I wondered about the spider. So I got a flash light to check things out. The spider was there in her web. That's when I decided that I "had" to get her photo.

In the dark??? Well, I had a flash light in my hand, didn't I? That meant I had light. So I then put my 2 1/2 pound 150mm Macro lens on my lightest DSLR camera body (another 2 pounds) and decided to try to get some images with 4 1/2 pounds of camera & lens & without a tripod. In hindsight, this was all kind of crazy.

What seemed reasonably simple in thought didn't end up quite so simple in practice.

I had to hold the flash light in one hand and the camera in the other hand. Normally, I use two hands when shooting hand held. This camera/lens combo was pretty weighty for hand holding period. So what seemed like a great idea (photographing the spider in the dark) became much more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

On top of everything, it was VERY difficult to aim the flash light where it would properly illuminate the spider and not the background (yard, trees, etc) behind the spider. Just like with a camera, I had to focus the flashlight. I had to get that beam of light focused just right. Then, I had to hold the flashlight completely steady. Surprisingly, this all took a great deal of effort. Otherwise (the slightest move off target), the light would move off the spider and leave my subject in the dark.

Illuminating the spider to photograph turned out to not be as easy as merely shining a flashlight in the vicinity of the web. Nevertheless, I kept trying and trying until things finally worked...

Next came the problem of the camera in my other hand. To make things even more complicated, auto focus wouldn't focus where I wanted it to focus. It either went to the background or else didn't focus at all. So I had to use manual focus to get the spider into focus. Using only one hand to hold the camera, auto focus, & shoot was fun. NOT!!! :-[ That camera/lens was "really" too heavy to hold in just one hand alone if you want a sharp shot. Even so, I didn't give up. Obsessed with getting a shot, I used my chest and shoulder to help balance the camera. After finally working the one handed, camera logistics out the best I could, I then lost focus with the flash light. That made the spider disappeared. =-O

Getting the light properly back on the spider, I then lost focus with the camera & had to juggle the camera again. :'( And so on. At this point, a normal person probably would have said that the whole endeavor (of photographing a spider in the dark with only one hand holding a fairly heavy camera) was crazy. But I kept trying to balance flashlight and camera until I finally felt I might get a decent shot.

That's when the spider decided to become active. That was a new wrinkle that wasn't going to work with the f/stop as open as I could get it (f/2.8 with the Macro lens) and the ISO ridiculously high (12800); yet with still a pretty slow shutter speed. Luckily, the spider would occasionally pause.

This was all happening at 2 AM in the morning. My husband was sound asleep in bed where normal people are at that hour. But there I was standing outside alone in a pitch black night with a camera and a flash light & determined to photograph a spider in the dark.

I didn't actually take many shots that night. A dozen at most. However, out of the ones that I did, probably 80% of them ended up with respectable focus. That shocked me because I obviously wasn't shooting under ideal conditions. I truthfully expected not to get anything decent. Well, I was hoping that maybe one shot; if I was very lucky. This photography experience was a challenge. When I got a reasonably high keeper rate, that made me eager to try again the next night.

The next morning however, the spider was there in the web. So I was able to get a few clicks of her. But in daylight, she was extremely shy and would quickly run up her web and then sit on our roof out of camera reach. The more often she saw me, the quicker she would flee. The spider and I played hide and seek all day. For the most part, she was faster than me & I was able to take only a few shots. But those were pretty good.

That night, I went out again with a flashlight, and the spider was again in her web. So I went through all that I did the previous night. My juggling flashlight & camera gave me some respectable images. However, since the web was hanging over a 15 foot drop to our patio below, I was limited as to my shooting angles. The image variations in images came from when the spider changed positions or I changed the flashlight angles.

Anyhow, I had two days and three nights in total of playing with my camera and this spider. On morning, #3 she was gone!!! So was her web.

other sizes: small medium large original
Tom Munson11-Nov-2017 02:42
Outstanding images and wonderful commentary.
waterfalls man08-Nov-2017 03:16
Great Story & Shots V!!
Hank Vander Velde07-Nov-2017 23:22
Great story, great effort and great images Liz. Well done.
laine07-Nov-2017 19:58
I love the vision you painted with your story...a good effort with excellent results. Well done. V
Martin Lamoon07-Nov-2017 19:37
Brilliant, a great collection.
Stephanie07-Nov-2017 19:16
Dang! I'm impressed with the excellent shots and difficulty shooting at night! That camera is amazing!!! BV
danad07-Nov-2017 15:27
Great work in all respects ! V.
Helen Betts07-Nov-2017 05:30
Wow, what a tale! I’m glad you persisted because you got some outstanding captures.
joseantonio07-Nov-2017 05:14
great presentation and amazing information.V.
Gill Kopy07-Nov-2017 04:45
Well, you sure got some stunning results !! V