The closest I get to wildlife photography ~

Wolf Spider

Wolf Spider

I found this beauty outside my local Kohl’s store. It was dark, but I had parked under a light near one of those little shrubbery-covered islands with the curb around them. (What are those things called, anyway? Shrubbery islands, I guess.)

I wanted to photograph the spider because two friends of mine had, a few months ago, found such a spider in their house, had captured it and photographed it as well as they could through a Ziploc bag, and had posted the photos on their respective Facebook pages with a plea for information. (It was revealing of their personalities that one of my friends wrote “THIS IS THE BIGGEST FUCKING SPIDER I HAVE EVER SEEN” on her Facebook page while the other one simply but eloquently wrote “This thing. What???”) I was pretty sure theirs was a wolf spider, and I knew this one was.*

For once, I had my camera bag in the car. The wolf spider was near my car door, so I wanted to proceed cautiously. Wolf spiders can move pretty damn fast. They can’t jump, but something in the limbic area of my brain persists in believing that they can. Besides, darting doesn’t differ much from jumping, if a large spider is darting in your general direction. To assess the situation, I tapped my foot on the curb a safe distance away. The spider stayed put. I then made an awkward kicking motion (which I hope no one saw) toward the spider, and it still stayed put. So I edged the quarter near it for scale.

Since the spider remained motionless—either dying or depressed, I figured—I got braver with my shots. Finally I put the camera on super macro mode, which required putting the lens scarily close to the spider. But I was emboldened by its apparent indifference. I recently bought a little Fuji X10, a very capable retro-looking point-and-shoot with a bright lens and lots of controls, and that’s what I used here. The image needed a little lightening and a little sharpening, and I cropped it.

It’s fortunate for me that I prefer abstracts and semi-abstracts for my “serious” photography work. Several of my friends excel at wildlife photography, and I admire their work greatly. I don’t have the patience to do it myself, however. I hate using tripods, and my weak hands don’t like dealing with the weight of long lenses either. But those are mostly excuses; I simply lack the talent for photographing wildlife, just as I lack the talent for leading a wild life. This is as close as I get on both counts, and it’s good enough for me.

* Wrong again! I have now seen a much better picture of my friends’ arachnid, and it was in fact an orb weaver. They have assured me that it was much bigger and much scarier than my wolf spider. B. swears it was as big as her face. This seems hard to credit, but okay. It’s also possible that one’s perception of spider size is at least slightly influenced by whether said spider is outside where it belongs or inside one’s house.

5 thoughts on “The closest I get to wildlife photography ~

  1. This is a superb photo.

    On the literary merits of the text: This post is beautifully written. You know that, and I know that. I knew before I read it that it was beautifully written. Why? Because you wrote it. This post is dry, but truly hilarious.

    On the factual merits of the text: I’m surprised that the wolf spider failed to leap on you, sink its terrible fangs into your defenseless flesh, and then drag your paralyzed, but still agonizingly conscious body back to its lair, where it and its numberless progeny would feed on you–an exquisitely slow process of consumption that would end only when the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren of your original assailant finally consumed the last molecules of your prefrontal cortex.

    After all, that sort of thing happens all of the time.

    Of course, the truth is that wolf spiders never really hurt people. Instead, they go around eating things that we don’t like–including other arachnids.

    Further, let me note that I have had the exquisite and rare experience of having a spider dive into one of my ears. Yes: an absolutely true story. It took up residence there for a couple of hours.

    You have not lived until you have reached up to your ear and snatched from it a spider, attempting frantically to escape the flood of hydrogen peroxide with which you have drenched it.


  2. Thanks for the compliments, D. I’m glad you found the post funny, although only part of it is funny. The ending is serious enough. You mention that my humor is dry. I’ve been accused of having humor so bone-dry that, in conversation, it isn’t clear I’m intending to be funny. Oh well. Misunderstandings seem to be one of my strong suits.

    On the factual merits of the text: As you know, in college I was skinny enough that a wolf spider could just possibly have dragged me. Not so now. I’m also quite capable of killing a wolf spider rather than let it feed on me. I’ve been killing spiders since before Woody Allen started.

    While it is true that wolf spiders don’t hurt people, their bite is rather painful, or so I’ve read. Wolf spiders live in the hedge in front of my house—their funnel-shaped webs are giveaways—but I never see them wandering around. They’ve been very well behaved. They stay in the hedge, and I stay inside. I consider this a tacit cross-species agreement.

    Given your criterion, I have not lived, and I can make my peace with that. How big was the spider in your ear? This seems potentially important to the anecdote. Also, are you certain that the spider did not, while in your ear, tuck away a little egg sac that later released baby spiders that wiggled their way past all that lovely inner-ear paraphernalia into your brain?


    • In answer to your questions:

      1. The spider’s body was pretty small–perhaps a quarter-inch long. I’m not sure how long the legs were: when I pulled it out, it was drenched with hydrogen peroxide, and I immediately flung it to the floor. It lay there, twitching feebly, for the few moments that it took me to descend upon it, its gigantic nemesis, and crush it in a paper towel. Such was my revulsion that I did not realize the wisdom of saving it for posterity. Should I ever host another such guest, I will not make this mistake a second time.

      2. I do not believe that this particular spider was responsible for the spiders that now roam my brain. They took up residence there long ago; and long have they dined upon the neurons and synapses of what passes for my brain; so that it now consists of a few shrunken cells, entombed in masses of spider silk; a dark, domed world, traversed by pale, blind, and lonely spiders, whose trembling passages along the webs now constitute my only thoughts.


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