by Susan Snyder
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are finding ourselves working from home. A situation that is for some, myself included, not normal and presents many challenges but also some unique opportunities.
While working in my home office this week a little something caught my eye. That little something was a spider on a lampshade. Being a photographer and not wanting to let this moment crawl away, I took a break from my work and attempted to photograph the little arachnid with my phone. Unfortunately, the camera in my phone is not great and the photos didn’t turn our nearly as good as I would have liked. I decided I needed to get out my “real” camera for this photo shoot. Amazingly the little spider stayed on the lampshade for quite some time, but again I didn’t feel that my photos were really capturing the crucial characteristics to make a determination as to what kind of spider had joined me for a day “at the office”. Out came the tripod and still it wasn’t good enough. Drastic measures were needed! I had some containers stored in my closet that were made just for capturing insects. I had received these containers during Arizona Highways PhotoScapes Workshop with Bruce Taubert: Creepy Crawly Critters, which took place a year or two before. I remember Bruce saying that spiders and insects will slow down when they are chilled, and it will make them easier to photograph or focus stack the images. I convinced the spider that this would be a fun thing for us to do during our time together and into the fridge it went for a bit while I finished up my work and set up my gear.
I attached my Nikon 105 mm macro lens to my D7200 camera, set these up on my tripod near my kitchen table, attached a shutter release cable, and set the scene. I borrowed some foliage from outside to place the spider on during our “photo shoot.” Taking the star of my photo out of its temporary home, I set the leaves on the lid of the container and attempted to arrange everything just so. Whomever said it is difficult to work with animals wasn’t kidding! No matter how I tried to coerce the spider into just the right spot and position, it rebelled! Perhaps it did not enjoy its time in the deep, dark, and cold refrigerator. To finally get the images I needed, I tilted the container on an angle and propped it up with a saltshaker.
The result is a 7-image focus stack, all I could get, of a jumping spider (metacyrba taeniolar) that is smaller than my pinky nail who joined me for a day at my office. After the photo shoot, I released it into my garden on the leaf of a spider plant figuring it would have a better chance at bugs outside than inside.
By capturing the photo of this little spider, I was able to reach out to several people I hadn’t communicated with since the start of the pandemic. This meant I was able to check in with and on these friends and colleagues all because a spider spent a day at the office with me.
Susan Snyder is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops