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!
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.
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.