Although many species of Spider occur all year round particularly those that enjoy the comforts of living in our often centrally heated homes, it is towards the end of summer/autumn when they become most apparent.
Anyone taking an early morning walk through suitable habitat such as fields, heaths or roadside verges, will be struck by the sheer number of webs showing up by virtue of the dew that they attract. As this evaporates in the morning warmth the webs become characteristically almost invisible, a factor which is essential for their efficacy as insect traps. Coincidentally it makes it harder for the aspirant arachnophotographer to locate his subjects.
Very little about invertebrate photography is easy – except to those who have never tried it!! Ignore them and keep searching, for the Spider World can be highly rewarding in diversity of subject matter and quite a challenge in respect ofphotographic technique. Some form of closeup capability will be called for as some of the species are diminutive in size.
This need not cost the earth. As long as you have a camera with interchangeable lenses you can buy inexpensive closeup filters that screw onto the end of the lens and which come in various sizes measured in “dioptres”. These are easy to fit in the field and do not involve removing the lens from the body with the ensuing risk of letting dust in to the sensor. Some Spiders are a bit “twitchy” but a great many will let you approach quite closely if you “take it easy”. For identification purposes be careful what guides you choose to use because
although most people would normally think of Spiders as being “insects” they are not technically so since they have 8 legs, whereas insects have 6, and they are therefore not included in the coverage of most “Insect” books. There is, however, an excellent Collins Fieldguide on the subject ISBN 0 00219981 5. Good luck!
Shieldbugs have been with us for some months now going through their various stages or “instars” of development.
Many are now reaching maturity and can be seen more easily as they move around in search of food or mates. There are a number of species available for the discerning photographer but they occupy differing habitats and it calls for some research to determine where you are likely to find them.
Other varieties of bugs are also easier to spot at this time of year and a good starting place would be your nearest bramble bush if it still has ripening fruit on it even if that fruit is past its best. The accompanying three images are of species most easily located
Autumn sightings 2015
Anyone walking a country roadside verge recently will have realised that the berry season is upon us. Not necessarily the edible berry season since many of those, such as blackberries, are past their best, but rather the more apparent ones of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Mountain Ash, Wild Rose, Wayfarer Tree and a host of other impossible to ignore photo opportunities. Crab Apples will also be piling up in their various locations since they no longer seem to be collected for home use as happened in my youth. Grandma could hardly wait to get her hands on this annual harvest which ended up in glass jars in the pantry and, I think, formed part of a wide range of home cooking products. Coincidental to the “going over” of some and ripening of others of these fruits and berries is the emergence of a whole host of Bugs and Beasties. Many of these have maintained a low profile throughout the summer months but now seem to come into the open, in sometimes staggering numbers, to feed on this newfound food source.
Back in the days of slide photography I was on a trip to the Falkland Islands and came across some Striated Caracaras. These are one of the World’s rarest Birds of Prey and must rank as one of the smartest. They are popular in captivity for public flying displays because of the “tricks” that they can be taught to perform. In the wild they appear to be totally fearless and will actually come up and go through your pockets. I must confess that I allowed this one to see where I had put my lunch and, if left to his own devices, it would have taken just a few minutes to effect a “breaking and entering”.
In these days of “digital” this would not be a difficult set-up to “manipulate” but in the days of slide it took a little more arranging. I had hoped to sell the shot to Lowepro with the caption “He knows when he’s onto a good thing” but by the time I got round to it the bag had been discontinued!
Crocodiles can be notoriously difficult and dangerous to photograph if, like me, you really want to see the “whites of their eyes”. Safest approach is in a boat when there is a chance that they will not think that you are a person – just an odd shaped boat. The trouble with this approach is that the only kind of boat that is likely to allow you to get close will be of a size that a decent croc can overturn. Unfortunately anything that lives in the waters of Africa and can eat you can also swim faster than you – even if you were Olympic trained!
If you’re working a river or lakeside bank on foot then you certainly stand a chance of creeping up un-noticed if your bushcraft is up to it. The potential problem with this line of approach is that you can all too easily stumble on a nesting or resting croc concealed in the bankside vegetation. This is one of the only occasions on which I can be persuaded to get “my kit” – or part of it anyway – off in public. You need a decent stick about six feet long to the end of which you can tie your shirt. Holding this out in front of you as you walk along the waters edge will hopefully give a croc a primary target to lunge at when he comes at you like a rocket, leaving you time to “do a runner”.
My advice to you if confronted by this scenario is – be prepared to sacrifice the shirt!
One of the problems with photographing the young of many of our chosen wildlife subjects is that there will inevitably be some amongst them that will appear to be almost irresistibly “cute and cuddly”. It is a common human failing to anthropomorphise many wild creatures and especially their young. How you feel towards them is of course, to them, a completely alien and unreciprocated sentiment. You cannot expect either them, or their no doubt doting parents, to share your enthusiasms. They will frequently respond to your approach and advances with a typical flight or fight reaction, or some combination of the two.
Many young animals, however, especially those of predatory species which can be born with an ingrained feeling of superiority, will not be old enough to have developed a natural aversion to creatures such as yourself. Some may even, in fact, respond to your overtures with a seeming desire to interact with you. This is probably fine, up to a point, if you’re working with rabbits, but many of the Big Cat species often come within this category.
Several of the chapters in my book Wildlife Photography on a Budget are dedicated to convincing readers to “get up close” because that’s where the best shots are to be found. However, when doing this with the young of species that can eat you, or even just give you a nasty suck, my advice is “Never forget Mum and Dad”. There’s no greater leveller than when, after a successful photographic session with a youngster that you are sure was facilitated because you convinced yourself that “it” loved you as much as you would like to love “it”, you look over your shoulder and find the parents two feet behind you tossing a coin to see who gets first crack at your juicy bits!