Tiniest last stand

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


So I put this up not as an example of technical excellence, but as an example of how we can train our eyes/brains to see the very tiny if we work at it. Ever since getting my first macro lens back in the mid-oughts, I’ve looked for details. Most every hike has me looking down, not just to keep from going ass-over-teakettle, but for the very small creatures and features of nature that are often overlooked. After over a decade of this, my brain has become more adept at picking out even the tiniest, nearly microscopic thing if it presents itself well - like this spider.

I was on my front steps when I noticed this bright speck of yellow making its way across the top of the cut grass. I had a feeling I knew what I’d see when I got close and yup - a mini crab. Even at this stage the instinct for the ambush grab is set firm and so this one landed here and got into position. It’s about 5mm across the legs and is on the tip of a blade of grass. Trailing silk (which you can see), it goes from one to another of these, often propelled by a mere breeze. Truly a wonder and so I got right in there with the tripod and an off-camera Godox flash.

And to continue with the ability to see things like this, after winter I find that I need to wake up this skill after a hiatus of blanketing snow. The ability never truly leaves me, but it is definitely harder to recognize shapes and patterns, or more accurately, pattern disruption, in the first hours of a spring outing. But after a bit of practice, it returns and the wonders underfoot present themselves again.

Specific Feedback

Yes, I know the back isn’t in focus, but it moved and so the next shots in the stack don’t align so I went with what I had. Any other improvements?

Technical Details

Tripod & fill-flash w/diffuser
focus points chosen manually
6-image stack in Zerene - tried for more, but slight changes in position made it impossible.


Lr to prep photos for stacking - basically just getting details and tonality right, no cropping. Zerene for the stack - a DMap with some PMax details and also retouching from source images where the alignment wasn’t perfect.
Lr to further improve color and clarity in the resulting TIF, and also a bit of a crop.

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I have noticed that too, Kris, that I can see the tiniest things that used to be missed for sure. I will have to pay attention to see if there is a difference for me after the winter months. I really haven’t had a lot of activity this summer either, with the excessive heat. Tiny things nor me wanted to be out in that. This morning I looked out the glass door and saw something on the shepherd’s pole where we normally keep the hummingbird feeder. I grabbed my camera and went out and it was a tiny gecko. I got a few shots and will try to post later. I enjoy the small world so much.

I like how he posed for you here. You know he is tiny when he can hang onto a blade of grass and it not bend!

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Excellent job on the spider, Kris. I love the way it’s supported itself on the web and grass blade. The only thing I can think of that might make the image more effective is if you have a frame with the end of the leg and the web in sharp focus, you might be able to copy that portion of the image and do a manual stack.

And, yes, I notice the same thing with macro-it takes a while to retrain my eye if I haven’t done it in awhile. The same thing applies to looking for invasive weeds.

Thanks @Shirley_Freeman - maybe without so much snow you won’t notice a difference, but it would be interesting if you do. And a gecko would be neat to see. Not many lizards here in the north.

Unfortunately, @Dennis_Plank I don’ t have any with the ends of the legs sharp. This guy is so unbelievably tiny that I’m amazed I got anything, much less a handful of shots I could stack. I do have one or two with the back in focus, but the angle is different so I couldn’t use it.

The invasive weed radar sounds very similar to macro - looking for what should be there versus what shouldn’t. I’m always amazed at how adapted to pattern disruption human visual cortexes are.

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Not to get off the subject, but we’re pretty good at doing that with all our senses. Lots and lots of generations from the first primitive sensory system to now of survival training.

Not off the subject at all. Partly I posted the explanation I did because so many people, some photographers, are amazed that I see what I do in the woods or from the kayak. While it is a skill I’ve worked to develop, it’s also a strength of human vision. Sometimes we don’t realize how well we “see” until we learn to “look”. Like anything it takes practice.

But you mention other senses - my hearing has improved as well since spending so much time in nature. Even when I’m busy doing my photography thing, I usually will hear things in the background of noise and can pick them out. The other day while kayaking with a friend, I kind of laughed in the middle of what she was saying and she gave me a look. I heard a tree frog and that sound always makes me giggle. She couldn’t hear it at all. Funny.

Oh and here are some bonus shots of similarly-sized crabs I found on different flowers in the yard.

On Black-eyed Susan -

On Daisy fleabane (the flower is about 2 cm wide) -

I believe them to be two different species of crab spider, but I am not 100%. And I have NO IDEA what the other bug is in the second shot, but it didn’t move so I think it was a victim of our crabby friend.

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You go, Spider Woman!! I saw the thumbnail and said to myself, no, this isn’t going to be another stack… But I think I knew.

The first picture is very interesting, the last two are wonderful!!

I tend to look down a lot more than up, and do see some fairly interesting details. But what I’m looking for is generally rattlesnakes. They are invisible until they move.

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Lovely spider macros, @_Kris. Guess it’s a bit easier to do a stack when it’s on a more stable flower. For me, October is definitely spider month, with early morning mists casting dew on the webs, less intrusive vegetation, and spiders taking advantage of weakening prey. (There’s even a Flickr group devoted to this, called “Arachtober”, which you maybe know, kicking off this Sunday).

I like your remarks on spotting the small ones. Movement, shape, color, texture all have a part to play. Like you, I need to wake myself up after hibernation every spring and narrow down my vision once more. In winter the sounds are key too, as I’m looking and listening for birds, often in the distance, so that’s a major spring shift (except for frogs and buzzing insects). Living in a temperate climate, one has to get back in the zone.

“Wonders underfoot present themselves again” - that’s what I love about macro, it’s like a treasure hunt with few certain treasures at the end, but all the surprises we get every time we go out. And then we learn so much about them after we’ve seen the creatures. That’s also very satisfying.

I’m also really encouraged these days that so many young people are getting into macro. And I’m slowly realizing Instagram isn’t only about ego and making money. Lots of great macro photographers there, and this encourages new techniques (and equipment). But here is a great place for the “macro in nature” (as opposed to the “technically perfect micro”) to be seen and appreciated to the full.

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If you need to keep in practice looking for the small in life, read *Never Home Alone * by Rob Dunn, then practice in your house.

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An awesome capture, Kris. I love the small world you have captured here. I have found since getting more serious in photography that I am seeing a lot more tiny subjects like this. The background is good here to help keep focus on this tiny subject.

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Thanks @Diane_Miller, @Mike_Friel, @Dennis_Plank & @Dean_Salman - who knew my mini crabs would prove so endearing. Macro has been a constant in my photography since going digital and I’m always chuckling when landscape photographers “discover” it. I’ve said for a long time that mostly I’m a photographer of very small things. It’s so freeing to be able to go into any environment and come away with photos I like whether it is landscape, wildlife or macro. It widens my opportunities and lights up my brain with more interesting bits of nature.

I used to participate in Arachtober on Twitter, but I hardly ever go there anymore and I’ve hated Instagram since day one. Maybe @Shirley_Freeman can sponsor an Aractober outpost here on NPN.