I haven’t posted for almost a week and I have been feeling quite guilty about it. I picked-up a nasty virus late last week and haven’t been feeling particularly inspired (or healthy) ever since. But this morning—once I stopped trying to cough-up a lung—I decided to grab my camera and take a few photos.
My subject today is an Israeli pillar tail scorpion (Orthochirus scrobiculosus negebensis). These are very odd little critters, and quite different from “typical” scorpions. They are small, tubby and have a disproportionately huge, fat tail (metosoma) that has a much textured surface. They wave their odd tails over their head in a really distinctive way as they walk around. They are about as cute as a scorpion can get.
I bought a group of these critters last summer. I naturally photographed them shortly thereafter, but I was disappointed in the initial photos and didn’t feel they were good enough to be posted here. I really liked the scorpion pictures that I uploaded in my last post (see A scorpion, a white box and 15 minutes) and so today I thought I’d give this species another shot, so to speak.
There are several challenges to taking really good pictures of these scorpions:
- They are very small—this specimen is about 2.5cm (1/2 inch) long—and very active. But that describes about 90% of the critters I work with. Photographing tiny, busy critters just requires some extra patience and perseverance.
- They have two-toned colouration with very dark bodies and very light legs. If the legs are properly exposed then the body looks too dark. But if the body is correctly exposed then the legs are washed out. I found that the best approach was to expose for the body and then darken the legs in Photoshop.
- They live in a completely dry, sandy environment, so they tend to be covered in a scattering of fine dust. This is the real challenge—it is really difficult to get a nice, clear, sharp photo of a very small, dusty animal.
I was hoping that by now my Orthochirus would be well established and would maybe have cleaned some of the dust off their exoskeletons since my last attempt. Unfortunately, as you can see from these images, this wasn’t the case. This scorpion is still dusty and these photos really aren’t as good as I’d like.
It is so tempting to wash this little beast off in some warm water. But as I said above, they come from a very dry environment—they don’t even have a water dish in their enclosures. I’m afraid that immersion in water, even for a short time, would stress the animal badly or even worse, cause it harm. But I sure would like to get some nice photos of these fascinating animals and it’s hard to imagine that a quick dip would hurt. But I am hesitant…I might just have to be satisfied with these photos—at least until one of my Orthochirus moults and sheds the dust along with its old exoskeleton.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F16 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: Vivitar 283 flash and VP-1 Vari-power adapter (1/4 power)