When a rare photo opportunity comes your way, jump on it (pun intended). You have no idea if or when it will happen again.
My wife and I were at a garden center when she spotted a tiny spider jumping around in the flowers. It had bold coloring and was much cuter than most spiders I see.
I tried to take some photos with my iPhone but without much success. First of all I didn’t have a closeup adapter with me, and the spider kept jumping on to my phone or my hand.
I have seen metaphid jumping spiders before, but never one this colorful (at least in person), so I new this was a rare photo op. The question was, How do I get it home where I had better equipment?
We were ready to make our purchases so I looked through our car, found a plastic cup with a lid, cleaned it out, captured the spider, and we left for home.
I started taking pictures with a 100 mm macro lens at 1X magnification, but the spider still looked too small.
A cropped version of the same photo was better, but still not what I was after. It was time to drag out the big guns.
So I put a Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens on my camera with a Canon MR-14EX Ring Lite to provide light. This specialty closeup lens has a magnification range of 1X to 5X. It is not a normal lens so you can’t photograph anything bigger than a postage stamp, but you can get ultra close when you need to.
But I kept running into a problem. Every time I moved in close to take a photo (the lens and flash were just a few inches from the spider), the spider would disappear from my viewfinder. It was jumping on to the front surface of my ring lite. I would hold my hand next to the ring lite, it would jump to my hand, and I would transfer it back to a bush and start over. Eventually things started to click.
At 2X magnification the spider looked good and at 3x magnification, even better.
I took over 200 photos with the spider on different plants and in different poses. When it wasn’t jumping on me or my ring lite it would jump from plant to plant. If it looked too far to jump (I don’t now how it decides this kind of thing), it would put out a thin strand of webbing on the breeze until it attached to another plant. Then it would crawl across that thin silken web.
In the end, I ended up with a number of photos I am very pleased with, including a few nice portraits.
Data for the top photo: Canon 5D Mark III. Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens, Canon MR-14EX Ring Lite. 1/60 sec, f/16, ISO 800.
For a general introduction to closeup photography, read chapter 16 in my book Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies, one of the highest rated photography books at Amazon.com. You can learn more about the book here and order it at Amazon.
I recommend two excellent nature photography books which you can order directly from my Amazon store (and get Amazon’s excellent prices an service).
My favorite closeup photography book is John Shaw’s Closeups in Nature. It is the best of the best. An excellent follow up book is Close-up Photography in Nature by Tim Fitzharris. If you get the “This item is not available for purchase from this store” message, just click on the “Buy at Amazon.com” button.