Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary

So last post we brought out the big guns and showed you what the 200-400 Beast is capable of pulling in.  To contrast that, I figured I’d go all the way in the opposite direction and feature the 105 Macro glass for this post.  And the best picture opportunity for the Macro is?.. you guessed it, my porch.  Continuing the Night Dweller themed posts (here, here and here), I bring you the latest set of arachnids found late at night out here in the Midwest country.  Thanks to our toy poodles we often have the opportunity to check out the creatures that visit our house late at night.  As of late, the spiders look like they’ve been on a steroid kick resulting in some rather large specimens.  One night I stumbled on this huge spider and ran for the camera.

It always creeps me out a bit when looking through the macro glass.  The unassisted viewing reveals enough features to make your heart skip a beat, but add the full blown macro magnifications and it’s like you’re staring at creature from a bad B-Horror movie.  So there I was laying the ground taking pictures of this spider when a large moth dropped out of nowhere in striking distance from a natural predator.

This might get very interesting.  Both subjects remained very still which might have been due to my presence potentially interfering in the survival of the fittest experiment.  The small macro depth made it difficult to get both creatures in focus but it did create a nice effect.  (Yes, I had to manually fix the moth due to pet eye, but for my first attempt ever at it Photoshop it turned out pretty good).  After about 10 shots, there still wasn’t any movement between the two.  It reminded me of an Old West quick-draw, each waiting for the other to flinch.  Low and behold, another visitor showed up to take part.

The first thing that came to mind was the Mexican standoff from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Unlike the Eastwood show, only one of these competitors had a loaded gun in terms of a bite and venom.  Now I am officially way beyond the  field depth for an eye level view so I moved up higher in an attempt to bring a little more focus into the shot.  The Opilione (or as we call them around here – Daddy Long Legs)  and Moth are still on the wrong end of this fight for survival, unless they can team up – maybe the moth does a 360 maneuver to land on top of the spider while the Harvestmen (another common name for the Opilione) pokes the spider’s eyes out with its long legs.  Although this might be more difficult that choreographed since the Harvestmen can’t make out images with their eyes and thus have to use the second set of legs as antennae to navigate the world.  Come for the pictures leave with trivia – what a deal!

By the way, I generally try to provide some reference for size since the macro has the ability to distort reality.  There was no way I was going to stick my finger in that mess.  Instead I tried to get the old standby penny visual in, but even that proved difficult due to my reluctance to get real close to the wolf spider.  Here is the best I could do … sorry!

I have a lot more pictures of our eight legged friends after the jump (if you dare)- most of them have the more traditional macro shots showing them up close and personal.

From a clarity perspective, the next couple are probably my favorite of the set.  In the larger sets up on Smugmug ( can see all the detail the macro glass captured.  I’m just glad I’m not an insect because the look of this predator would probably paralyze me making it a piece of cake to wrap me up for the family feast.

Here is a view head on with the same spider.  This angle always produces the greatest amount of emotion.  Now that may be true for the viewer, but in this case I’m talking about the photographer.  From behind the glass it feels like your head is about a centimeter wide and sitting about a 5 millimeters from the fangs.  It must be as freaked out as I was since it just stood there almost motionless making it perfect subject for the camera.  I know for a fact they are fast and I’ve seen them do some amazing leaps when disturbed so it must have been contemplating a possibility of enough food for a lifetime.

This one had a slightly different color pattern on the main body.  The mainline stripe is a little thicker than the previous one but the rest of the features looked similar.  Being smaller than the previous specimens, it didn’t really bother me too much during the shoot.

I decided to get another angle of it.  This side does not seem as dramatic as the ones where the spider is facing the glass.  Maybe it is the higher angle that takes the viewer out of harms way and thus reduces the impact of the photo.  Next time I’ll try taking a shot from behind but more at the same eye (guess that should be eyes in the case of spiders) level.  It might provide a more first person perspective.

I would have liked the face of this spider to have a little more clarity, but I do really like how the macro reduces the depth of field so it looks like it coming out of the fog at you.  It also forces your attention directly into the eyes and fangs which is really the dramatic element in these kinds of shots.  As a note, keep in mind that the depth of field is so tight it doesn’t even cover the full length of a spider.

Again, I backed up and took a higher angle.  The heartbeat clearly ratchets down from this perspective as the viewer no longer appears as the prey in this shot.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely prefer the head on eye level shots from a photographer’s perspective.  I say that with some apprehension since that means I have to continue laying down on the porch to get the better shots – making me fair game for other night dwellers looking for some flesh to feast on.

There are definitely a lot interesting nuances to the wolf spider species.  This one was a lot darker than the others which tend to take on the more brown tones.  This doesn’t diminish its creepiness at all and in fact may even make it more menacing.  The focus on the legs give a good indication of where the depth of field is – probably looking at close to 2 or so legs worth which is enough to get a feel for the face features.  The bad thing is the black eyes tend to merge into the black coloring of the legs and fangs.  I was using the flash on all of these pictures (obviously) which tended to give some glint in the eyes, but it wasn’t enough in this particular instance.

Here is another angle which gives the impression it was stalking a pebble.  Imagine its surprise when it tried to sink those fangs in – might warrant a visit to a spidentists (groan).

This specimen was crawling up our siding one night.  Their sticking power is pretty impressive even with the slick cement siding boards it had zero problems crawling right up the face.  I like to call this angle the view from Linda’s foot.  Note, the symmetry turned out really nice on this with its first left leg straight out in line with the right back leg.  Well, then again it may just be giving me the spider finger.

I tried moving into a head on position, but this proved difficult due to the angle on the wall.  Instead I tried to find a position that would highlight at least the eyes.  From the camera LCD, I basically dismissed this shot as soon as it was shot.  Once back on the computer another look at it revealed a pretty cool picture.  Through all the chaos brought on by the leg blurs, the attention goes right up from the focused leg at the bottom directly to the crisp eyes.  First impression is it looks like a spider monkey head was stuck on a spider body.  Any thoughts on it, good or bad?

We have come to the last picture in the set.  Now, the first spider was large and the others were not too shabby either, but they all paled in comparison to this beast.  We had wrapped up a night of Rock Band (those sessions usually go all night until late into the morning hours) and I had just described the large spiders I had seen lately.  Sure enough, the minute we stepped out onto the porch I looked down and this monstrosity was hanging on the door sill.  There was no way I was going to get my fingers next to it for a reference and being off the ground the penny wasn’t going to help much – understandably I didn’t get any takers for holding the penny next to it either.

Although it looks like the leg is broken, it actually was just wrapped under it.  It never really left that position the whole time I was photographing it so there was not a chance to capture it’s full size which probably would not have done it justice without a true reference.  I do have two people that can vouch for it though!  The would be the ones having nightmares ever since.

I hope you enjoyed this set.  As creepy as it seemed at the time, the post processing was sure fun.  I have a ton of other interesting night dwellers to feature here so keep an eye open for the next batch.  By the way, as is my policy, no subjects were harmed during this process… now if my wife finds them first, that may be a whole different story and a lot more colorful pictures.

2 thoughts on “Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary”

    1. What a contrast to my wife who is quite horrified by the results of my porch picture taking. Just seems like a waste to let all those creepy insects and arachnids to go about their business unnoticed when you have a nice macro lens just lying around waiting for people to put down the beast for a bit. Thanks for dropping by and check back from time to time, there are a number of night dweller posts being worked as I type.


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