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Posts Tagged spider

Native Crab Spider Brendan Moyle Jun 27

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New Zealand has two main genera of crab spiders. One of the common forest ones is Sidymella, whose drab appearance and cryptic lifestyle makes it easy to overlook. One of the distinguishing traits of this genus is the blunt end to the abdomen (opithosoma).

Crab spiders are not web builders, but ambush predators. The lack of web means there's often less clues as to their presence.
The local species around here is Sidymella angulata. These shots were taken with my macro lens and the Raynox 6x microscope adapter. (And a card behind the spider)







One advantage to being an ambush predator, is that they stay pretty still for photos :)

Native Crab Spider Brendan Moyle Jun 27

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New Zealand has two main genera of crab spiders. One of the common forest ones is Sidymella, whose drab appearance and cryptic lifestyle makes it easy to overlook. One of the distinguishing traits of this genus is the blunt end to the abdomen (opithosoma).

Crab spiders are not web builders, but ambush predators. The lack of web means there's often less clues as to their presence.
The local species around here is Sidymella angulata. These shots were taken with my macro lens and the Raynox 6x microscope adapter. (And a card behind the spider)







One advantage to being an ambush predator, is that they stay pretty still for photos :)

Into the night Brendan Moyle Mar 26

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The drought seems to have hit the local spider population hard in the bush around us. The number of nursery-web spiders has dropped off markedly. Likewise there seem to be fewer orbwebs and the like about than last year.

My expedition on Sunday night though, did catch a couple of spiders out. (One of the rationales for this trip was to use a Metz M28 flash in conjunction with the macro-flash. I'm trying to find an easy way to throw light into the background as well as the foreground around the subject).


Anyway, assuming you like spiders.

#1- The Deadly Embrace


#2- Surprise

It’s a small world Brendan Moyle Mar 22

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I kind of feel I need a complete break from elephants. So here's a closer look at one of the denizens of the NZ bush. The crab spiders are a well-known family, often depicted in colourful magazines hiding on or near flowers. In New Zealand, we don't tend to have a lot of highly visible flowering plants, so our native crab spiders are a bit more cryptic.

It is unusual to see them in a hunting pose during the day. So I found this tiny spider at night on a fern frond, all geared up to take on flying prey. Like jumping spiders, crab spiders don't use snares to catch their prey. Unlike jumping spiders though, crab spiders have much poorer eyesight.





The Snare:Tetragnathid Spider Brendan Moyle Jan 10

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One of the types of spiders that builds orbwebs, are not true orbweb spiders (Araneids). Their webs are often aligned horizontally rather than vertically. The spider also much larger jaws (chelicerae) than orbweb spiders. These spiders are the tetragnathids.

One of the most common of these spiders is the indigenous Leucauge dromedaria. This spider is native to both NZ and Australia, and I've been trying to get a photo I like of it for a while.

One of the problems is getting close enough as it sits in the web, to actually fill the frame. I use a microscope adapter on my macro lens to increase the magnification, but this also means I have to get much closer. So any spiders in a large web, usually run off as I hit a warning thread. While I can crop the image later instead, that can leave a photo too small to print.

The other problem is that the air has to be quite still. These spiders make their snares in more open or exposed settings and even a very gentle breeze can add a motion blur to the final image. So, you need a very still day to work with.

You also benefit from an overcast day. The problem is that this spider has a conspicuous silver abdomen. That makes it easy to cause highlight 'blowout' of detail.

So this is a non-cropped shot, taken on an overcast and very still day, in a spider that has made a relatively small web. The other detail I like has been the very light recent rain, that has left tiny droplets in the web.

"The Snare"

Click for larger image

The other thing about this shot is that everything is on manual settings. The exposure has been set manually. The flash has been set manually (one flash head directed at background at high power). And the focus was all done manually. It's a very 'old school' pic :)


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For more photos please visit
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Taking time to look good: Jumping Spider Brendan Moyle Dec 29

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This isn't the time of the year when I'm on the computer often, and there's little sciency-stuff to write about. Hot humid summers in Auckland tend to encourage one to take it easy. I am however, taking the time to do a bit more macro-photography. One of my favourite subjects this time of year are the jumping spiders (Salticidae). They're growing large as their prey increases in abundance. One of the most widespread natives we have is a Salticid by the name of Trite planiceps – it's distinctive black carapace and front legs make it easy to spot. It's often found around flaxes and other native shrubs. Albeit yesterday I was surprised to find on on the back of my neck in the kitchen. I guess it was either a great optimist or had me confused with vegetation. Maybe I am moving too slowly…

I got this shot in an area of local bush a couple of days ago. The spider is kindly undergoing part of it's grooming behaviour. Many spiders do this grooming on a regular basis. It's a bit different to the normal stalking pose you might see.



The Salticids (family of jumping spiders) are well known for their excellent eyesight. They are able to discern shapes in 3D. Other spiders are suspected only to be able to sense movement, and rely on other cues (vibrations, chemical-signatures) to identify prey.

NZ Tunnelwebs Brendan Moyle Dec 11

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These large lurking spiders are common in the NZ bush. Their nocturnal habits though mean they are rarely seen by people. On occasion they do wander into people's houses. We had one crawl across the kitchen floor earlier on afternoon. Fortunately in our house we keep a cool head around large spiders. Actually we tend to be enthusiastic greeters to such arachnids.

Nonetheless, the best time to see these spiders is at night. It is extremely rare to see them out of their tunnels. Nonetheless, I managed it with this large beauty. This is the NZ Hexathelid Hexatheles hochstetteri – one of the very first species from NZ to be described.

This Mygalomorph spider is unusual for having 6 spinnerets rather than 4. They are some of New Zealand's largest (by weight) spiders.

#1 Wanderer


#2 Closeup- the small eyes are clustered at the front edge of the carapace


#3 Adapted to kill- the spines on the front legs help trap the prey long enough for the fangs to strike


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For more photos please visit
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Monday #Macro – Gnaphosid spider Brendan Moyle Sep 03

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Exploring the bush for spiders (and other creep-crawlies at night) can be a hit and miss affair. Your vision is rather limited. I use a head lamp but this is a compromise. If you use too strong a headlamp the light will spook more creatures. If the lamp is too weak, you can't see as much.

Often the web-builders are easier to see, because webs will reflect light back to you, showing evidence of the spider. For the ground-hunters, the odds of seeing them drop away quickly. Not only do you lack the tell-tale sign of a web, but they're more active spiders and more likely to be spooked by vibrations or light.

I spotted this gnaphosid spider however on the side of a tree trunk, then set up the gear to get some pics. This is actually a widely spread family of spiders and a common inhabitant of native bush. It doesn't mean it's any asier to spot at night however :)





A first look at the HVL-MT24AM Brendan Moyle Aug 13

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As noted earlier this macro-flash from Sony is basically a rebadge of the Minolta flash that preceded it. This isn't a bad thing because it was a pretty good flash to begin with.

It does mean however that the unit lacks two features found in many more modern flashes. It can't be triggered with a remote flash and it lacks ADI. You can only shot with this flash in TTL or manual mode.

These aren't critical issues for a macro-flash however.

The main difference between this flash and the Sigma EM-140 I was using before is the flexibility with the position and direciton of the light. The Sigma works on 2 lamps set at 180 degrees apart and the light is diffused through a ring mounted on the lens.

If we start with the Sony macro twin flash, you can see it starts with a mounting ring


This shows you can set the two flashes 45 degrees, 90 degrees and 180 degrees apart. The mounting shoes are fixed onto the ring.

You then attach a lens adapter to the ring to screw it on to the front of your lens.

This shoes the adapter for a 55mm diameter lens.

The flash controller mounts on the hotshoe of the camera.

Back-view of the controller. You can also see the dials that are used to manually adjust output of each flash when you shot in manual (M) mode.

The front of the controller has the sockets to attach the flash cables.



The flash heads are then mounted on the ring. They also swivel so they can point inwards towards the subject, front on or outwards.


To modify the flash you can
1) Attach it to a mounting arm that can also be positioned at a 90 degree or 60 degree arc.

2) The arm can be extended to create even more side light

3) The lamps can be fitted with wide-angle diffusers

4) Or with their own diffusers to soften the light further.


So how does it all work?
Well I had a quick trial last night (before it rained) on a tunnel-web spider that was occupying a tree-trunk. The challenge with this subject is the tunnel. Also you're shooting at night-time. So what I did for this shot was to place the lamps 90 degrees apart. The lamp located at the top of the ring was angled to direct light into the tunnel itself. The second lamp was positioned at 90 degrees to throw light on the actual spider. I went with TTL metering and exposure compensation of -3 (to minimise hotspots).

The spider


Closeup #1


Closeup #2


Now, I'm very pleased with this. The tunnel has received enough illumination to pick out the details of the legs and other body sections. The direction of the light has also meant that the hairs on the fangs and underneath the front legs have been revealed in sharper detail.

So overall, I am very pleased with the flexibility and usefulness of this unit for macro photography.

Creatures of the night – NZ spiders Brendan Moyle May 28

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One thing about NZ spiders many don't appreciate, is that a lot of them are nocturnal. The jumping spiders or wolf spiders may be out during the day, but most of the others prefer the night. If you are basically a small bag of protein to any bird that's about, it doesn't pay to advertise your presence too widely. The night-time is your friend.

This means if you really want to see these guys, you have to go into the NZ bush at night, in the dark, and see what's around for yourself. This can be fascinating because this is one some of our largest native spiders make an appearance.

One of these is the tree trapdoor spider (family Migidae). These lurking predators lie in wait for any prey item that triggers their warning threads. Their strong limbs and large fangs suffice to subdue most prey.


Then there are the Amaurobiids. These large and agile spiders scout over the forest floor. You can sometimes hear them crashing through the undergrowth, chasing down prey (rats, feral pigs). Well, maybe not quite that large…but they are a good size.



Other hunters include our native Pisauriids- or the nurseryweb spider. These lurk on vegetation and rely upon their size to overpower any prey.


Most people will be familiar with the large sheetwebs that stretch- sometimes between trees- in the NZ bush. This is home to our native agelenids- in this case Cambridgea foliata.




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