In The Eyes of a Huntress

Adult female Misumenia vatia, photographed in natural light.

Adult female Misumena vatia, photographed in natural light.

I revisited an older photo of an adult female Misumena vatia, shot with my old 28mm lens reversed on my set of Kenko extension tubes. The image is soft and diffuse from lens diffraction, so it’s kind of useless…but I still enjoyed the actual photographic process. It was the first time I’d actually used the reversed lens setup I’d read so much about. I have long admired Thomas Shahan’s photos and was eager to give the method a try. (It only took be about 3 years to get there!)

It was also the first time that I’d watched the retina of the crab spiders moving around within its head. I observed this through the viewfinder of the camera for several minutes, and was fascinated. I kept wondering what she could see! It was a bit unexpected! You often and sometimes obviously observe this eye movement in the salticids, and as far as I know, their vision is likely superior to that of the crab spiders.

It strikes me as an obvious advantage for these spiders to have a similar inner eye mechanism, as they are sit and wait ambush predators at rather short distances, and movements are kept to an absolute minimum until the very moment they pounce. They are usually seen with their first two pairs of limbs extended out in front of them, like a pincer. Armed with sensitive hairs, the right kind of movement will set the trap to spring! They are often seen perched on flowers, and can even change color to match their surroundings – white, to yellow, and back. The process takes a week or more, which means it’d be a perfect subject for a time lapse (I MUST do this!) Because of their decent vision, getting a closer look at them often proves a comical game of hide and seek. Misumena will scurry away beneath a flower petal, leaf or twig, doing their best to avoid been gawked at. They don’t like it. (I feel ya there, spiders! I do the same! Heck, I’d even change colors if I could!)

Anyhow…I hope to solve the diffraction problem soon, and get a flash setup so I can take more photos with the reversed lens! I’d like to get a sharp portrait at this magnification. (And maybe get video of the retina movement of her inner eye with the 50mm reversed!)

Quick snapshop with the Canon G12, a very yellow crab spider, seen in Tikal National Park, Guatemala, 2013

Quick, very noisy snapshot with the Canon G12, a very yellow crab spider, seen in Tikal National Park, Guatemala, 2013

I can’t wait for spring and summer to find them! I’d found a huge crab spider in Guatemala that I still need to identify. Its behavior was lethargic, and I wondered if perhaps a wasp had stung it and dropped it by accident (the spider was in the grass, where people often walk). I never found an opportunity to photograph it with the dSLR, but I plan on returning to Guatemala and Tikal sooner than later. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll find another!

Curiosity has the best of me now…I’m off to figure out just what she was!


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