Macro photography is a wondrous and elusive art-form, that takes much patience to pull off. So much so, that you might actually die of boredom before your shot comes. Fortunately, there are many people out there — such as myself –, that love macro photography, and are willing to waste time sitting around to even get a chance to capture that elusive shot. And while I don’t mean to make it sound like the most fantastic forms of photography, I will say this: it is tough, and requires great dedication to master. I myself am nowhere near to mastering this form of photography, and I will not introduce any fallacies about my skill into this post. I will merely try to share some of what I know about macro photography in the hopes that you will find it useful. As with all forms of photography, you need to have a basic grasp of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. If these terms instill any sense of ambiguity within you, please go and read our “Back to Basics” page — found above. Since macro-photography is such a broad field, I have decided to narrow it down and focus solely on jumping spiders, but keep in mind that the information found here is universal, and can be applied across the field.
- Camera (*sigh*)
- Macro Lens
- Flash or Ring Flash
- Soft Box
- Tripod (optional)
The gear you need is very standard. A camera — preferably a (D)SLR –, a macro lens, and a flash — or ring flash. If you have this equipment, you’re ready to go out and hunt. Jumping spiders will, for the most part, not come to you. While many people find them around the house, jumping spiders prefer the outdoors where they can hunt for prey. If, in the off chance a jumping spider will be indoors, it will most likely be on a windowsill, eating any bugs along the window. However, I would recommend searching outdoors in any large areas of vegetation where other insects are lurking about. That is where they stalk their prey. Don’t forget to check the underside of leaves!
Note on Jumping Spiders:
Jumping spiders are very curious, but fragile and timid creatures. Please do not hurt them. They almost never bite, and in the off chance they jump on your hand, they are merely appeasing their curiosity, and trying to find out what this giant is trying to do to them. If they jump on the front of your lens, again, don’t be alarmed, they are just looking at their own reflection. Jumping spiders are very beneficial arachnids, because they eat other insects, thus helping to maintain a healthy population of the wildlife in that particular area of vegetation.
Note on Flash:
In this case, since capturing pictures of insects at such high magnifications requires a fast shutter speed, I listed the flash as required. However, if you don’t have one, you can still take the pictures — just keep in mind your aperture and shutter speed will be limited.
The setup is simple. Simply have your flash ready to fire somewhere off to the side of your camera. You can either attach the flash to your lens with rubber bands, to a bracket that is attached to your camera via the tripod mount, or you can hold it off to the side of your camera. Another alternative to flash placement is to have it attached to a tripod — this is why the tripod was listed as optional. Just keep the tripod within grabbing distance, and when you see your shot, quickly place the tripod in a suitable location and shoot away. My personal recommendation would be to find a bracket to hold your flash to the bottom of your camera. Tripods tend to scare the jumping spiders away when you move them. If you’re looking for a cheap and affordable bracket, you can find one here. If you clicked on the link, it undoubtedly led you to an Amazon page for the Neewer Slave Flash — a $10 product. While you may not necessarily need the flash, the bracket is very useful. Sadly, I don’t think you can only buy the bracket.
Because jumping spiders are found outdoors, your exposure times will vary. Fortunately, since you will be using a flash, you can keep your shutter speed at 1/250th of a second, and merely change ISO or aperture to compensate for the different light conditions that you encounter.
As with most other forms of macro photography, you should not be using auto-focus. Instead, switch to manual, preset your lens to a desired reproduction ratio, and then focus by moving the camera/lens forward and backward. Depending on the size of the spider, this may, or may not, work. It solely depends on your desires for the outcome of your picture. Some jumping spiders will be big enough that, at 1:1 reproduction ratio, they will not fit in your frame. It is up to you to make the decision whether you want the spiders whole body in the picture.
- Jumping spiders are scared by sudden movements. If you have to move, do it subtly and gradually.
- If you keep steady during your encounter with a jumping spider, they may become accustomed to you, which will make them easier to photograph.
- If you happen to find a jumping spider feasting on some food, be quick to take advantage. They are usually less on guard during a meal — but still make sure not to move too suddenly and startle them.
- Sometimes, in order to find a jumping spider, you may need to sit down, stay still, and observe the garden for a while.
- As I said at the beginning of the post, jumping spiders are very timid. If they begin to run away, simply use your hand as a wall — without touching them–, and they will reverse their direction of travel.
- Keep your flash at a reasonable power, you don’t want the spider to jump at each use of the flash. If they are, that’s a sign that you need to lower the flash power.
- It helps if your macro lens can focus closer from farther away — ex.) 100mm macro lenses get 1:1 reproduction ratios from farther away than 60mm lenses. This helps give the jumping spider some breathing room.
- Don’t even bother trying to sneak up on a jumping spider, they have 360 degree vision. The key is to be relaxed, patient, and slow moving.
So at this point in the writing process I am tired, therefore, I’m going to use the conclusion from my last macro-related post: “Be patient! All forms of macro-photography take a lot of precision and time. Don’t expect to have your prize-winning shot within the first five minutes of shooting. Take a lot of pictures, and remember, have fun!”
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