PSA » « Fake Bomb

Things That Delight Me: Common Spiders of North America


[Warning: Spiders]

PZ posted a cool piece with a picture of the arrangement of spider eyes [pha] and that reminded me that it’s time to write a review of a truly delightful book I stumbled over the other day: Common Spiders of North America by Richard Bradley with artwork by Steve Buchanan. [wc]

The illustrations are lovely to look at, and there’s information, too!

It’s too nice to use as a field guide; this is more of a coffee table book. There are detailed descriptions of each of the different kinds of spiders – also a large front-section with photographs and all sorts of arachno-facts. To be honest, I’m still looking at the illustrations; they are beautiful.

That little red spider with the cluster of eyes in the middle of its forehead is named after Harrison Ford. It’s hard not to learn important facts from just a brief glance at a book!

Shaky iPhone snapshot does not do the illustrations justice

I love illustrations that seem ready to jump off the page:

One more – look the one on the upper right is a christian spider!

Photographing spiders is tricky – eventually they assume that you’ve got ill intent and they move away. It would be easier to photograph them dead, except they fold up when they die. To get this shot, I wound up lying in my gravel driveway (ow!) scootching slowly forward until the end of the lens was a few inches from the spider.

The lens used for this is a Canon MPE-65mm F2.8 1-5x macro lens. It’s basically a front-mounted microscope – a very specialized piece of equipment that I jointly own with a couple of other photographers. We realized that it’s not the kind of lens that you need all the time, and that we could just box and ship it around as necessary. Currently I’m the guardian of the lens, so when I saw this lovely critter in the foliage by my house I had to go give it a try. As you can see, the depth of field of the focal plane is very, very, shallow at that magnification. I should have cranked the aperture down a bit, but I was worried that the picture would get shaky. Usually the way you use a lens like the MPE-65mm is to put the camera on a threaded table, so you can move it back and forth in very small increments. To do that, you need a spider that is more patient than this one was.

------ divider ------

When I was a kid I taught myself how to snatch flies out of the air and that brought up the question of what to do with the wiggling fly afterward. Naturally, I hit upon the idea of throwing the fly into a spider’s web and that was how I wound up with a ‘pet’ spider one summer. That ended when my mom vaccumed up the spider because we had a house-guest coming. Until just now I used to keep that little hobby of mine secret, but now that a famous professor like PZ Myers has come out and admitted he does the same, I don’t feel that people will assume I’m a psychopath.

PSA » « Fake Bomb

Comments

  1. Curt Sampson says

    That ended when my mom vacuumed up the spider because we had a house-guest coming.

    Wait a sec…and you were thinking that you were the psychopath here?

  2. kestrel says

    That looks like a really cool book! Thanks for the review! The photo is great. The spider appears to be thinking about you and what you are doing.

    I was working in Texas one fall and there are a lot of tarantulas out there in the desert. They seem to just magically appear because they blend in to their surroundings so well that when they hold still they are really difficult to see, then when they do move and you see them, you could swear they just came out of nowhere. At first they frightened me but then I observed how careful they were when they moved around, and learned that they have to be very cautious about falling because a fall could kill them. The more I learned the less I feared them until finally I allowed one to walk on my hands. Amazing creatures.

  3. says

    Wait, you thought associating yourself with a hobby I share would immunize you against psychopathy accusations? I’ve got something to tell you.

    I eyeballed that very same lens, but $1000 was a few million miles outside my budget, and decided instead on an $80 adapter for my $1500 dissecting scope and $20,000 compound scope — they were paid for by the government, so it was actually a substantial savings. There are trade-offs, though. I can’t haul a scope out to my driveway.

  4. says

    These spider drawings are very beautiful indeed.

    It’s basically a front-mounted microscope – a very specialized piece of equipment that I jointly own with a couple of other photographers. We realized that it’s not the kind of lens that you need all the time, and that we could just box and ship it around as necessary.

    Yeah, that’s reasonable. I have been thinking that I’d love to play with this lens, but I understand that I would use it so rarely that there’s no way to justify the price tag.

    Until just now I used to keep that little hobby of mine secret, but now that a famous professor like PZ Myers has come out and admitted he does the same, I don’t feel that people will assume I’m a psychopath.

    I have a somewhat similar hobby. I also kill flies for food, but instead I feed them to my carnivorous plants. I have several nepenthes plants and sundews growing on my windowsill. Here’s a photo with a sundew “eating” a fly that I killed — https://orig00.deviantart.net/6190/f/2016/095/b/7/sundew_s_meal_by_avestra-d8zhy8t.jpg You can see from the squashed eye that the fly wasn’t killed by the plant.

    Photo was taken on my windowsill. The image is focus stacked. I must have taken about 20 separate shots. I had my camera on a tripod, so theoretically I could have used a narrow aperture with a long shutter speed (or I could use a speedlite thus having no need for a long shutter speed), but I didn’t want to get lens diffraction. Thus focus stacking was the only option. I used Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens with a Raynox DCR-250 lens in front of it. This might not give me as much magnification as the MPE-65mm lens, but at least the Raynox DCR-250 lens is cheap and gives me more magnification than standard macro lenses.

  5. jazzlet says

    Leva it’s a beautiful photo.

    We try to have spiders that we can feed the flys we swat out of the air, but it doesn’t always work out. It’s easier here as the house has more of a square footprint so the temperature is more stable. We lost several from the offshot kitchen in Sheffield because it just got too cold if we were away for a few days in winter. Mind I’ve no idea what the life span of the various house spiders is, so they may have all died from old age and it just happened to coincide with us taking holidays.

  6. Callinectes says

    I never caught flies to feed to spiders, but at my garden centre job I used to catch spiders to feed to fly traps.

  7. says

    Leva, that picture is amazing! Well done!

    I, too, have fed flies to “pet” spiders. I used to work at a place where we got a fair number of flies from the seed place sharing a building with us, but something about the local environment made them dull and easy to catch. I’d catch the flies and then throw them into the webs of some cellar spiders (AKA “daddy longlegs”) that lived under a workbench nearby.

Leave a Reply