Photographing Spiders

An article by David Brooks on May 10, 2010


Few photos in my library jump out at me every time I think of the library as a whole. Strangely enough the first one is the most-trafficked photo on my website — the photo of a Wolf Spider in its nest.

A Wolf Spider, in its Nest

We were in Georgia, helping at a camp, and I had been watching these dark shadows move inside a funnel-shaped web that hung in the corner of the room. I hadn’t identified the spiders yet, and I didn’t know how aggressive they would be, but I knew that they were big, very big, and they didn’t like us much.

When they would come to the edge of the web, I would sneak to photograph them from below. It failed every time. They would see me and run back inside where the web was thickest.

On the last day, after the children had gone and the set was being taken down, I moved the ladder over toward the web and started climbing. A crowd of people gathered to watch the spectacle. Had they been betting people, there would have been a good wager on how quickly I would bail off the ladder to avoid being bitten.

With the ladder I could see inside the funneled web. I could tell that there were two of these very large, very fast spiders inside. I snapped away, holding onto the ladder and crossing my fingers. The result, I think, was well worth the scare factor and the risk. From the photos I was able to identify them as wolf spiders, a harmless but somewhat annoying species, rather common but in my opinion hardly ever this big:

A wolf spider

Wolf Spider Hatchlings

The second photo is one that I had forgotten — or had blocked from my memory.

While visiting family in Mississippi, we decided to take a trip to the Cypress Swamp. It was nearly dark and the sunlight was just barely able to make it through the canopy above. I was looking for an angle to shoot across the swamp so I stepped into the brush, just a little bit.

Maybe it was an act of subconscious self-preservation, but I looked down at my feet just in time to notice a spider crawling across my boot. I stepped back, in an effort to get rid of it without harming it, but in doing so it brought something even more important to my attention. I had been only a foot away from a nest of hatchling wolf spiders.

I knew they were harmless, but in my mind I couldn’t really convince myself that I wasn’t in danger. Nevertheless, I knelt down and started shooting away. My father in law was there, too, shooting with his Canon Rebel, both of us in disbelief.

A nest of thousands of wolf spiders, hatching

It might seem a bit tame because I could identify these spiders, after-all, it does take some of the danger away. But if you ask me what I would have done had they been a nest of Black Widows, for example, I’d tell you that I’d have changed only one thing… the brightness on my flash to accommodate for their darker color.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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