The last time PetaPixel spoke with talented macro photographer David Joseph, he was using his smartphone to incredible effect. Joseph has now upgraded to a dedicated camera system and pointed his new macro lens at spiders, an oft-misunderstood and rarely appreciated arthropod that plays a vital role in ecosystems across every continent, save for Antarctica.
“I see spiders have a bad public reputation, which should not be so,” Joseph tells PetaPixel over email. “Being ‘eye to eye’ with spiders for a long time now, especially the past three months, has given me some eight-legged friends I long to see every night when I go out.”
When Joseph says “every night,” he means every night. No matter the weather or how he feels, he grabs his camera gear and heads outside each evening to seek out spiders to photograph.
Many of Joseph’s new arachnid pals are wolf spiders, perhaps the most wide-ranging of all spiders due to their incredible adaptability, and huntsman spiders. These common — and mostly harmless — spiders do not benefit from their intimidating appearance and unfriendly names. However, they are beautiful in their own way, as Joseph’s excellent macro photos demonstrate.
Not all his photos show spiders being docile, though. He also wants to capture their “beastly” side, which, as he explains, is just “spiders being spiders.”
Some photos show the motherly side of wolf spiders, too. Wolf spiders are unique in the way that they carry their egg sac. The spider keeps its silken sac attached to the spinnerets at the end of its abdomen, meaning that the expectant mother must change how she moves to avoid harming her eggs.
Once the spiderlings hatch, the mother spider carries her children onto the dorsal side of her abdomen for several weeks. That is one committed mother, especially relative to many other spider species.
The Spiders Help Joseph Feel Connected to the World in New Ways
“A lot of times, I’ve found myself struggling to love or be attached to something for long. These spiders changed that,” Joseph tells PetaPixel. He explains that alongside his photos of the spiders and his new understanding of them, he has felt a closeness that has otherwise been challenging to experience.
“I hope my photos draw people close enough to see spiders from a point of view they’ve never seen them from. To show their strength, motherly side, as well as vulnerability,” Joseph continues.
By looking at spiders eye to many eyes, Joseph hopes that people who see his photos will feel less aggressive toward spiders and, ideally, encourage people to pause and take a closer look at them. A spider is just an eight-legged friend you haven’t made yet.
Joseph hopes that considering spiders differently will enable people to change their preconceived notion that “spiders are bad.” At the very least, someone doesn’t have to enjoy spiders as much as Joseph does to feel respect toward them.
The Move from Smartphone to OM System
As PetaPixel showcased last year, Joseph achieved great macro photos using his smartphone. However, the shift toward OM System, formerly known as Olympus, has enabled him to capture even better images.
“Switching from a mobile phone to a dedicated camera system has been a game changer. I have been able to do a lot of things easily and faster, as well as some I couldn’t even do then,” Joseph tells PetaPixel.
While Joseph could do manual focus stacking using his smartphone, it was extremely challenging and tedious. With his OM System EM-5 Mark II and M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, he can use automatic focus bracketing.
“My favorite thing about shooting macro with an actual camera is the autofocus bracketing capability, which helps me get more of my subject in focus and achieve a sharper result with just one click,” he says.
While only some camera brands and models include automatic focus bracketing features, Joseph notes that OM System includes this feature on many of its cameras, even its less expensive ones. He also notes that he believes that OM has macro photographers at heart when they design their products. It is easy to agree with this sentiment, as OM routinely offers intelligent and robust features in its cameras and builds its gear to survive challenging outdoor shooting scenarios.
As for lighting, Joseph primarily uses artificial light. “I attach a Godox V350o flash to my camera and a flash diffuser. I use the Cygnustech Diffuser, which is the best and most popular diffuser in the macro photography community. It’s made by my good friend and pro macro photographer, Brendan. Shout out to him for all his brilliant work and support; he’s an amazing person,” Joseph says.
The diffuser helps soften and spread the light from the Godox flash, ensuring that Joseph’s macro shots look natural. “I never use my flash for macro without attaching the Cygnustech Diffuser,” he adds.
Respecting the Subject
Although many people have a misguided — albeit understandable and relatable — fear of spiders, they are very sensitive animals.
When spiders do not feel threatened, they are generally very calm and docile and do not pay much attention to people. However, it is critical to approach them very slowly and quietly.
Joseph spends a lot of effort showing his eight-legged subjects that he is not there to hurt or disturb them. While getting up close and personal to capture enough images for a focus stack may seem scary, Joseph says that spiders “don’t attack.” That is not to say that someone should not be careful and know if a spider’s bite is medically significant before crawling around in plants, especially at night. However, very few spiders pose a genuine threat to healthy adult humans, and even fewer will ever bite someone who is not actively harassing them.
“Any time of the day or weather works. I prefer photographing them at night or early mornings when I know they’ll still be out and probably going on with their spider business undisturbed by humans. Most of the spiders come out at night too, and they’re easy to spot with bright lights. Their bright, reflective eyes give them away,” Joseph says.
One of his favorite species, wolf spiders, has famously reflective eyes. “It’s hard to pick just one favorite,” he says. “I really like how wolf spiders look up close, their speed and strength, their fierceness and care.”
However, huntsman spiders are up there. Joseph’s favorite individual spider is a huntsman he spotted one night eating a caterpillar. “I almost cried the night I spotted her. Weird, but I mean it.”
The lengthy caption in Joseph’s Instagram post below helps illustrate just how much photographing spiders means to him.
More from David Joseph
Hopefully, arachnophobes have been able to appreciate David Joseph’s photographs. He demonstrates admirable passion, respect, and photographic talent. While spiders can be scary, macro photographers like David Joseph help show that spiders are worthy of respect.
While loving spiders as much as Joseph does may be a tall bar to clear, learning to show their beauty through macro photography is achievable for all photographers.
More of David Joseph’s work is available on his Instagram.
Image credits: All photos by David Joseph (@abcdee_david)