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Photographing spider webs

I have always been fascinated by spider webs.  Spiders too, but I find the geometry of webs and the idea that these little creatures can create such intricate works of art totalling intriguing.

It was after a rain last week that I remembered a spider web that I had noted on my front porch the day before.  Since the weather was too poor to go golfing I decided to spend some time with my D300, my Nikkor 60mm f2.8 macro lens, my SB900 flash, cable release and tripod.  My chosen subject was the spider web.

What I first learned was that spider webs are not all that easy to photograph and make look good.  A dark background can help isolate the web, so I used an inexpensive sheet of black construction paper that I had lying around the house.  I just taped it behind the web on the porch railing and it provided just enough of a darkening of the background that the strands of the web stood out a little more clearly.  But just a little.  I wanted a bit more drama, so I went and got a spray bottle filled with water and started to gently mist the web (make sure you do this before you put the paper into the background, and move your camera away so as not to get water onto the front of the lens!)

After having wet down the web I repositioned my macro lens as closely as I could and started to look at setting up my composition.  This is where the Live-view capability of the D300 really shines.  By using the Live-view I could adjust the position of the camera, the focus and wait for the wind to die down a bit all without bending over the eye piece of the camera.  The Live-view will allow the user to view the image on the back view screen (much like a point and shoot camera).  You can even zoom in on the image to make sure that your subject is sharp.  For such fussy macro shots I found that a tripod and a cable release further help to improve the sharpness of the image.

The last ingredient was the light.  I experimented with various types of off camera flash positions using the SB900 hand held above the web.  In wireless mode at such close settings, even with the on-camera flash turned off, you still need to block the flash from the camera as it will show up in the shot (not a problem at distances greater than a couple of metres).  You can use your hand, a piece of cardboard or anything, really.

The resulting photos I took turned out fairly satisfying and gave me a basis on which to build my experience for capturing spider webs in the future.  I hope you enjoy the result.

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