We’re getting into my favorite time of year to take pictures. I love fall morning and late afternoon light. I know those are generally the best times to take photos anyway, but there’s something different about the fall light. I don’t know what it is, but I always seem to get better pictures and struggle a lot less when I’m shooting in the fall. And I love how the dewy mornings give me lots of opportunity to go web hunting.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows I love finding and shooting spider webs. I don’t have a thing for spiders and in fact, I usually do my best to avoid them. But I love their aerial artwork and I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph their webs. It’s not easy, and I often find myself ankle deep in water or mud or standing in nearly shoulder-high brush and weeds (amongst God knows what other kinds of critters … but I try not to think about that!). Still, nothing quite thrills me as much as seeing the results of my efforts. Oftentimes I can’t shoot some of the best webs I find. Either they’re out of my reach or I can’t get myself (and my gear) in the right position where the light will allow them to show up. Or sometimes the background is just too obnoxious. The photo below is an example of that.
I found this wonderful web suspended between two old coneflower plants, but the background was really tough. Because the fog was so dense, I tried to position my tripod so I could shoot the web against the backdrop of the tree. Otherwise, the web wouldn’t show up and would vanish into the background fog. Unfortunately, this meant I had to have the distance between my camera, the web and the tree just so … which proved to be nearly impossible. Mind you, I was standing in the middle of a very dense, wet garden and trying not to trample too much in my quest to get things just right.
I finally got a couple of decent frames … not exactly what I wanted, but I was running out of time. So I did my best, then headed back inside to feed the dogs and get ready to scoot out for a riding lesson. Later, when I finally had a chance to download what I’d shot I was (somewhat) disappointed that I didn’t manage to capture the entire web against the backdrop of the tree. However, upon closer inspection I discovered a butterfly in several of the shots. When I was shooting I never got close enough to the coneflowers and web to actually see the butterfly. In fact, I think at the time I just thought the thing on top of the flower on the right was a dried leaf. (Age and bad vision … Ug!) But here’s the proof: it was a butterfly! A special little treasure, hidden in the frame!
When I need a break from the madness of this world I look to nature for an escape. It’s comforting to know that nature will somehow survive long after we manage to annihilate ourselves. I’m constantly amazed by how hard the flora and fauna fight against everything we throw at it. I have no doubt that someday, when we cease to be large and in charge of this planet, nature will reign supreme. Again.
I hope 9/11 will never be forgotten, and all whose loved ones were murdered have the condolences and support of the United States and Her people.
Hurricane Irene (though downgraded to a tropical storm) came through New England a week ago today. While I’m sure that’s old news now, I was without power for a week, which left me feeling suspended in time. Cell towers malfunctioned, making cell phones useless for three full days. Fortunately, I have an ancient rotary dial phone in my basement. When was the last time you used one of those? I can tell you this: rotary dial doesn’t jive with today’s automated answering systems! No ability to “punch in a number” means you can’t get very far with a rotary dial phone! But at least I could call family and a few friends to let them know I was OK.
I’ve experienced a few major weather events and one thing I can say for certain is that it doesn’t take long before you begin to feel like the rest of the world has passed you by. The first few days after a crisis your time and thoughts are pretty much focused on trying to get rebalanced, reorganized and back into some sort of “normal” routine. Although we had plenty of warning about the storm, there’s always one more thing you wish you could have done to be better prepared for the aftermath. I figured I’d be without power for a few days. Honestly? I thought I’d be off the grid for about three days at the most … and even that estimate seemed extreme at the time. But a whole week without juice? I was certainly not expecting that!
The storm was long in duration … about fourteen hours to be exact. That’s fourteen hours of very high wind and driving sheets of rain. My biggest fear was having trees come down on my barn or fence and having my horses get injured or escape. Since none of that happened everything else was just a major inconvenience. Yes, we had lots of tree damage, but mostly trees that didn’t threaten the house, yard or barn. We also had damage to our fences, but not the fencing where the horses were penned during the storm. So all in all, I can’t complain. God answered my prayers!
The weirdest sensation during the storm was that once we lost power (about two or three AM Sunday morning) we had no way to know what was going on elsewhere in the state. Had the storm really even arrived, or were we just starting to experience the preliminary effects? Had Irene passed us by or were we in the eye of the storm? Had she been downgraded more or was she still packing a wallop? Where was she tracking and how close would she come to passing directly over us? What was predicted to be the worst for us: wind or rain? How bad was the damage around us and in neighboring towns and states? None of these questions could be answered. After days of tracking Irene’s progress online, I found it frustrating to be so suddenly disconnected from current information. Yes, I’ve grown accustomed to having instant access to updated information at the mere click of a dial or mouse.
We have a generator. I know most people think that means you have power to do a lot of things, but actually you don’t. It meant we didn’t lose food in our refrigerator or freezer, but we had to unplug those appliances to plug in the well pump and the furnace to heat hot water. Water is critical on a farm and unless you’ve hauled six buckets of water across 75 yards only to watch a horse drain each one and look for more, you can’t appreciate how important it is to have a reliable source of water close by. It took awhile to establish a routine, but we eventually settled on running the ‘fridge and freezer during the day (when it hot), then switching over to power up the water and furnace in the evening for dinner prep and cleanup. We tried running the generator the first night, but we had to close all the windows to drown out the sound and that meant the house stayed way too warm. So we had eighteen hours of power each day, but those hours had to be carefully allotted to a small handful of very limited things.
On the third day I figured out a way to run a fan. One fan …. for the whole house. Yay! (One fan is better than NO fans!) I also wired one light in the kitchen and one in the living room. We had to turn pretty much everything off to power up the TV (what does that tell you about your electric bill?), but it was doable. I could have lived without TV, but I was Jonesing for a weather update, which I normally get from the computer. My stove is propane; electronic ignition, but I could by-pass that with a match. So I could cook. But I couldn’t believe how much I’ve come rely on the microwave, even if just for little things like reheats or quick warm-ups. I went to the library a few days before the storm and loaded up on books, but I can’t read in bad lighting. Heck, with my eyes I can hardly read in GOOD lighting! My Nook is back-lit, but it didn’t take long to finish the two books I had on it. Without Wi-fi, I couldn’t download more.
Basically, the rest of the week was a dance of priorities. Camping is fun as a vacation and a break from the norm, but it’s just plain tedious to have to camp in your house for any length of time. Houses are designed to run on electricity and most of the things we do in our homes become a huge pain in the neck to lose when the power is out. I know the rest of the world went on like nothing ever happened, but a lot of us here were really struggling just to cope with simple things like meals, personal hygiene and jobs, . All things considered I think I held up pretty well, but I know that’s only because I had a little help from the generator. Others had nothing and were stretched to their limit. Still, things remained civil. There wasn’t any looting or shooting, though I could easily have dope slapped a line worker if I had even laid eyes on one anywhere in my vicinity before late yesterday afternoon. (Just kidding. Kinda.) We were one of the last in our town to be brought back online and by then, I’d really started to feel like I was in an Outer Limits episode. One thing I will say: the nights were incredibly and wondrously dark. And quiet! I could live with that indefinitely!
Last week I was feeding the horses … I don’t remember which morning because at some point they all started to blend into one another …. when I saw this huge web in an arborvitae. (How huge? It was at least 1.5 feet long and almost as wide!) The web was up pretty high, but the dark blob in the center indicated that the resident spider was home. I decided to try to get a picture of the web, but I knew it would be a challenge. The light was difficult and the location of the web was such that I wouldn’t be able to try shooting from lots of different angles to make the web stand out. Webs can be very challenging to shoot even if you have ideal conditions, but I thought I should give it a try. I’m glad I did! This is a crop from one of the photos I took. I tried getting several frames from one angle, then I switched lenses and used a step ladder and a spray bottle to mist the web. That really irked the spider, but I was hoping it would help make the web stand out a bit more against the challenging background.
Another web photo taken a few days ago. This web was very hard to get due to it’s being up high and catching more light than the others. I had very little room to maneuver and my tripod was on an incline. I was also getting shredded by mosquitoes. I tried to get the whole web in the frame, but it proved impossible and I had to settle for what I have here.
Same web, taken from behind the shrub it was suspended in.
I’m glad I’m not one of those unfortunate people who suffers from spider phobia. While I’m not all that fond of being surprised by a big hairy spider, I won’t flip out if I happen upon one. Ideally, it wouldn’t be on me, but either moving away from me or happily doing it’s own thing someplace where I can observe it.
This web is one of many that I captured with my camera last summer. Early one foggy, dewy morning I went outside to find dozens of beautiful gossamer webs scattered throughout my flowers, plants and shrubs. Many were in perfect condition and the dampness helped make them stand out just enough that I could photograph several of them. I’m sure I missed just as many as I shot, but I was pretty thrilled by this encounter.
Sept 13, 2010. 7:50 AM. EST
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 400, 50mm, 1/125 sec, f/4.0
Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Lightroom3: Brightness/contrast adj.
Perhaps I’m being redundant, but last week I awoke to find I had perfect conditions for shooting spider webs: heavy dew and filtered morning sunlight. I was nearly late for a herding lesson because there were so many great webs to shoot!
There were webs all over my flower gardens,
(Please click each picture to enlarge!)
webs in both butterfly bushes,
webs all along the fence line,
Webs that went a little haywire,
Webs spun by spiders with ADD,
webs in the junipers,
webs that scaled the 6 foot hibiscus plant,
and webs suspended in dangling tree limbs!
Not a bad show for a few minutes work and a quick walk around the back yard! Imagine what I could have captured if I’d had the time to hike the entire property? Next time!