Spiders are amazing creatures. They produce silk from their spinneret glands located at the tip of their abdomen. Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it. Spiders use different gland types to produce different silks, and some spiders are capable of producing up to 8 different silks during their lifetime.
Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recover some of the energy used in spinning. The silk proteins are thus recycled – Source: Wikipedia.
Webs are incredibly strong compared to their size. They are flexible and extremely beautiful to photograph.
So you agree with me that spider webs are a great subject to shoot (i.e. to photograph and not destroy). But shooting a spider web comes with many challenges. The photo below was taken on a Sunday lunch with the family in the mountains. I was exploring the area with my son and found this spider web and started teaching my 12 year old Jad some of the tricks. I have compiled the rest of this post to tackle a few.
Shoot on a humid day with no wind
If there’s a hint of wind in the air, cobwebs are likely to move as you photograph them. This will definitely cause blur in your shot and will shake off any moisture on them. Generally the best part of the day to shoot them is early morning.
Choose a dark and plain background
Simplicity of the background is key in every photo. This is even true for spider webs. You don’t want the background to distract viewers from the main subject (web and its creator). This will enable the foreground web itself to stand out.
Crank up your aperture
To isolate the web further from your plain and dark background, choose a large aperture (the smallest f/number your camera and lens will allow) to give you a shallow depth of field. This will throw your background out of focus.
Shoot from different angles
Photographing webs from all angles can leave you with interesting results. If you are using an open aperture and shooting from left, the right side of the web will be thrown out of focus. So be creative and try different perspective like throwing the spider out of focus, then throwing half of the web out of focus. Also consider shooting directly in front of the web. This will enable you to keep the full web in focus as the distance from your lens to all parts of the web will be similar.
If you are not focusing on the creature itself, you will find that getting an auto focus out of the camera is a challenging task. So switch your camera to manual focus mode because even the slightest changes in focusing can have a large impact on composition. Use your LCD viewfinder and zoom in to get a sharp preview by rotating that lens in and out. Once you have a sharp enlarged image you can shoot and review on the LCD.
Make use of your tripod
The details of a web - or any macro shot - are sensitive and may easily result in shake and blurred image. You will not notice that before you get back from site and download those images on your computer. The slightest camera movement will be very noticeable. So please take your tripod with you.
The best photos of spider’s webs are those with dew or rain droplets on them. Moisture on a web widens it slightly and helps it to stand out more clearly from the background. As I mentioned earlier; the best time of day for dewy webs is mornings.
Fill your frame
If you don’t have a macro lens, no problem, just use your zoom to get in as close as you can. If you’ve got a macro lens switch to it to help you focus up nice and close. Another composition potion is to frame just a smaller part of the web and capture the patterns that you see there. In this way you can end up with some real detail and abstract composition.
Enjoy your nature photography and remember to always carry cameras.