A funnel web among the Lilies-of-the-Valley this afternoon invites speculation. Anybody in there?
We were out in the yard searching for insects and arachnids as suitable subjects for trying to master the macro/super macro modes of our Pentax Optio 450 -- those are the settings designed to facilitate detailed close-ups of tiny creatures like Daddy Longlegs (see below) -- when our camera's eye stumbled upon a cluster of silken funnel webs (above) among the Lilies-of-the-Valley along the fence in the side yard. Naturalist and photographer extraordinaire Bev of Burning Silo, who spins a mesmerizing word-and-picture tale of spider love, explains:
Funnel Web Spiders (Family Agelenidae) are recognized by the type of webs that they build -- a sheet of silk with a funnel or tube-shaped retreat where the spider hides while waiting for prey to wander near.
Grass Spiders like the ones that carpet Goomp's lawn early morning with their dew-drop-glistening webs are members of the family. Bev's post about the funnel web itself is a work of art.
This leggy critter (x 3), a true Daddy Longlegs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides), was hanging around under the sink in the bathroom this morning catching flies, sucking out their innards and discarding the exoskeletons onto the floor below.
With our current camera and level of expertise, we were able to capture only so much detail (above) of a Daddy Longlegs by setting the mode to super macro, which doesn't permit a flash. See Wikipedia images below for the level of detail we're shooting for. Will it require more sophisticated photographic equipment? Probably an SLR camera with changeable lenses. How steep would the learning curve be? We've heard good -- if intimidating -- things about the Olympus Evolt E-500 from Aydin Örstan of Snail Tales. Are we ready to embrace such things as the Zuiko Digital Macro lens? We've got a tripod and know how to use it, and we know our way around aperture sizes and exposures. In fact, we were heavily into all that stuff in our pre-digital, slide-filming days. Can this old dog relearn old tricks? Hmmm.
God is in the details. This image of a Daddy Longlegs at Wikipedia made us long for the ability -- not to mention the photographic equipment -- to capture such godliness on "film" in our own backyard.
Here's lookin' at you, kid. To think that all those bristles and eyespots are doing their thing right under our nose as we brush our teeth in the morning. We even had one of these critters in the shower with us the other day.
"There are so many cameras on the market that would probably do, but I’d definitely recommend getting one that has some macro capability if you’re interested in photographing insects and spiders," writes Bev of Burning Silo in response to a reader's query. We were about to ask her ourselves, when a google search brought up some helpful answers already posted:
A lot of digital cameras can’t shoot a photo closer than 8 to 12 inches. You should really look for one that has a “macro mode” setting. I’ve seen some nice photos taken with a couple of the Canon models . . . Another camera that should be good for macro work and that is small and easy to carry with you is the Nikon 510. Again, I don’t like to recommend any particular model as there are so many cameras and new ones coming on the market all of the time. What I usually recommend is to go to a good camera shop and have someone help you look at models. Take along something small to try shooting macro photos -- a small rubber toy frog or similar object is a good choice. Try out a few cameras and see which ones work best. Be sure to have the salesman show you how to put the camera into “macro mode” as it can be tricky on some models.
Here's about as detailed as we can get with a stationery subject and natural lighting in super macro mode. No cigar.
Bromfield Camera, here we come. These miniature miniatures -- mouse (13/16" from nose to tip of tale) of unknown provenance, piglet (5/16") personally imported from Venice in our salad days -- would be the perfect "small rubber toy frog or similar object" recommended by Bev to take along for shooting test macro photos when we go camera shopping.
*Blogpost title taken from Mary Howitt's translation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Spider and the Fly."