05 September 2007

Neighborly update

The bad news: The rain destroyed Sunny's web, and she disappeared. The rain also did quite a number on the white spider's web. (I'm calling the white spider Luna.)

The good news: Luna rebuilt.

The bad news: It rained again.

The good news: Luna rebuilt again, and Sunny came back, but put her web in a different place (up in the trees, not quite as high as Luna's web, but also not across the sidewalk. And not as spectacular. I think Sunny is a bit depressed about the whole rebuilding thing.)

The even better news: There's a third one, another yellow face, in the backyard.

The worst news of all:
I went to shoot a portrait of the new spider and felt a familiar, unpleasant tingle on my toes. It suggested the spider's new name: Queen Elizabeth. She is surrounded by palace guards, having built her throne directly over a fire ant mound. Ow ow ow ow ow.

Ain't nature great?

03 September 2007

"Sunny" is back

Last one, I promise. A big thunder-boomer is about to smack the area. I'm afraid my new neighbors may lose their homes (cry).

Anyway, all this photography has been fun. It will be interesting (or sad) to see what the thunderstorm does to the webs. If the webs are destroyed, it will also be interesting (and fun) to see how long it takes for the spiders to rebuild (preferably not across the sidewalk...)

Lunch with the new neighbor

I went back out around noon to find Sunny missing from her web and the white spider happily welcoming some very unhappy critter to his (her?) web. I think it's a fly -- you can sort of see a wing in the green-background photo below. I came out while the white spider was busily preparing it for lunch. The web has a few good rips, but the spider doesn't seem to mind. I imagine it doing the equivalent of spider whistling while s/he works.

For what it's worth, the camera for all of these & most of the rest is a Panasonic DMC-FX07. Some of the shots in the other blog entries may have been taken with my Olympus C-50. The Olympus has a little more in the way of manual adjustments for f-stops, etc., but it's a bit older & has been dropped a few times, so it has "issues." I don't use the digital zoom on these cameras, so everything you see here is max 3x zoom.... so yes, I'm really close to the spiders.

More spiders

The morning visit with the new arachnid neighbor turned up the exciting development that there are, in fact, two new neighbors: the yellow one with the enormous web across the sidewalk (photo, right), and a white one with a smaller, more subdued web up near the roofline (photo, below). By "smaller" I mean it's only about 1 foot across. (The web, not the spider, heh!)

I've been shooting my new neighbors since dawn-ish and have discovered that my cheap, compact tripod is not quite up to the task of capturing spiders that live more than 4 feet off the ground. However, that's the beauty of digital photography: You can shoot 200 images, delete 190 of them and still feel good about your "skill."

A professional photographer friend of mine says he hates digital photography for that reason. Once upon a time, an amateur had almost no chance of getting a good shot because they were always afraid of wasting film. Now... I can shoot more than 1,000 6-megapixel images onto my 4-GB memory card. So what if I shoot 25 pictures of the same spider? Surely, one will be in focus! And I might actually get a well-framed shot by accident!

(at right, the yellow spider's web across the front walk) Anyway, I was out there this morning shooting close-up portraits of the yellow spider (named Sunny after my car, for her charming disposition and her big smiles for the camera), with the camera on the tripod about 3 inches from the web. I was merrily snapping along when a wasp hit the web and scared the daylights out of me. Sunny was not happy at the intrusion either, as I think the web is made to capture smaller prey, like mosquitos (which is why I like having it there!) It was one of those "little seen in nature" events and it didn't take long enough to get the camera re-focused -- the wasp got away cleanly (perhaps with a bit of a fright), and the web was no worse for wear.

(Above, the backside of the yellow spider) My human neighbor came out in the yard later, and mentioned having seen us in the front yard the night before. I explained about my new pets (heh) and he came over to take a look. He is not a big fan of spiders, having walked into too many such webs strug across his own front walk. (Been there, done that. You wonder for days afterward whether you still have a spider living in your hair...) But he admitted he'd never noticed how beautiful the webs are, and said he appreciated my letting him meet the new neighbors -- from a distance. And he was glad they are at *my* house rather than his. Heh!

I shot a gazillion photos, and I put the best of them on Shutterfly. (below, yellow spider's web from the back, showing the "warning stripes" at the edges of the web -- the curved "dotted line" on the right side. According to one of the Web sites I read last night, the warning stripes may be designed to keep birds from smacking the web and tearing it to smithereens.)

02 September 2007

New neighbor

A couple of families have moved into the rental houses on my street, but the coolest new neighbor lives in my own yard. A member of gasteracantha cancriformis seems to have built a new living space across my front walkway, which may or may not be the best idea s/he ever had.

G. cancriformis, as you may guess, is a spider. The "cancri" part of its name comes from the fact that the spider has what appears to be a 'crab' body. I know this because mom & dad & I went out to photograph the spider & its enormous web earlier this evening with little success. It was dark, and we're not exactly professionals at this. (I'll try again in the morning....)

The one photo that did sort of come out is shown above, a very close-up of the spider in the center of its amazing web. The web itself is a couple of feet across and dotted with brilliant white streaks. It's truly a work of art that I hope to be able to share.

Until I saw the photo all cropped for show & tell, I thought we were dealing with one of the much larger Texas banana spiders (Argiope aurantia), but those are much larger and scarier than this little guy/gal. Anyway, this one is plenty big enough.

I'll try in the morning for some better shots of the beautiful web. I picked up a few hints off the Web (Google: "how to photograph spider webs").

By the way, these spiders apparently come in a variety of colors. I'm not sure why this one has chosen to match my lovely yellow Mini heh