OK, it has been way too long since I posted anything substantial. This time, however, I have a pretty good excuse for my lack of productivity: two weeks ago I lost my job. After 13 years with the same organisation the decision was made to cut my program (and me). I wasn’t given any warning and I have been scrambling ever since. Mind you, we are having a beautiful summer and I should be enjoying all my new found free time. But the whole loss of income thing is rather distracting…especially with two kids and a mortgage.
But enough about all that, I didn’t create this blog just to whinge about my personal life.
My subject today once again is a jumping spider [either Phidippus borealis or P. johnsoni—I’m really not sure how to distinguish them]. And once again it is eating another critter [I tend to post a lot of pictures of one critter eating another don’t?].
I have to say that I am really happy with these photos. I love jumping spiders and as far as I’m concerned one can never have too many pictures of these delightful little beasts [or of bugs eating other bugs apparently]. But I am especially pleased with these images because they are the first test of a new flash bracket and diffuser I made. For the past while I have been relying too much on my ring flash. It is really easy to use but I haven’t been completely satisfied with the results I have been getting. I’ll write more about the new set-up in a following post [no, really, I will]. Right now I’ll just write about this particular spider and how it came to star on this blog.
Yesterday I was home with my two boys. They are on summer vacation and of course I am now an unemployed bum for the first time in 30 years [sorry, whinging again]. They know of my interest in creepy crawlies [which they sort of share] and are always keen to point out any interesting bugs they spot, whether they are dead or alive. Well, yesterday they called me into the living room because there was a black spider on the ceiling. I went and took a look and found this nice young jumping spider. It was about half grown, approximately nine millimetres long.
At first I was just going to release the spider outside, same as I do for any other spider that wanders into the house. But I thought maybe I’d hang on to it for a couple of hours so I could take a few photos. Its abdomen looked a little small, so I decided to give it a meal in the meantime. So the spider went into a plastic cup with a mesh lid and I tossed in a two-week old cricket for it to munch. However, although the cricket was very small, it was still a little too big for the spider—or so I first thought. The spider jumped on the cricket a couple of times, but seemed to be trying to kick it away rather than feed on it. It then [the spider that is] retreated to the top of the cup and stayed there while the cricket explored the bottom.
A couple of hours later, after a leisurely dinner on the patio [by the family and I, not the spider], I grabbed my camera and the cup and went outside to shoot. I chose a large dead leaf from the lawn as a background. The spider was still at the top of the cup and the cricket was still milling around the bottom. I took the screen off the top and just as I went to shoo the spider out on the leaf it leapt the length (depth?) of the cup and tackled the cricket. So much for it being too big for the spider to catch!
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with the spider’s timing as I would like to have taken a few photos sans cricket first. But on the other hand it is much easier to corral these critters when they are hauling around an insect as big as they are.
And that brings me to the images themselves. I am really pleased with the quality of the light. Compare these photos with those I posted previously of another feeding Phidippus (see: A jumping spider joins the family BBQ) and I’m sure you will agree that these are superior. Of course the background and composition also makes a difference, but in general the quality of these later photos are (in my humble opinion) much better. I am particularly fond of the image at the top of the page. I love the composition and the way that the cricket is in focus for the length of the body. The spider had backed into a little cave made by the curled edge of the leaf and I really like the “feel” of the photo—if that makes any sense.
In my next post I’ll provide the details about the new flash set-up I used to take these photos. Yes, I know, my posts have been rather few and far between as of late. But I’ll write again promptly. After all, I’m unemployed now right? What else do I have to do?
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Zuiko 60mm micro four thirds macro
Settings: manual exposure (F11 @ 1/200 sec)
Lighting: Olympus FL-36 flash (1/4 power)