Tuesday 6 December 2011: Lizard
After blipping yesterday, I had a closer look at all the orb spider photos that I had taken and realize now that the two spiders are in fact two different species, although very closely related. The pattern on the back of the abdomen and the carapace (thorax) are quite different, as is the distribution of stripes on the legs.
Very strange that I should find two of these beauties in two days after looking for so long, maybe I am more tuned in to what to look for without even thinking about it. Also strange that both these spiders are building an 'X' patterned web, as in my
web Google searches I did not find many 'X' patterned webs, though they do build various patterns.
I also found out that the spider is known as the St Andrews cross spider, which is funny, because I was considering altering the background to blue as my salute to my Scottish friends, so please accept this belated and accidental tribute.
In preparation for a spider shoot in poor light, I constructed a flash hood made of white paper kitchen towel, I made it four thicknesses as I would be shooting from minimum distance. I have found that this works well at F5.6 - F8. I tried direct flash yesterday, but it washed out the light yellow color pattern and resulted in a harsh, unrealistic result.
I arrived at the grove this morning on this overcast day to find more of the area raked, clearly he intends to rake the lot. Nothing much was moving so I went over to the spiders corner where I found her, so I was still in business.
I got right down and dirty, on my elbows for camera stability, this would allow me slower shutter speeds as I intended shooting non-flash shots also. With the flash hood, I took a range of apertures and as expected F5.6 - F8 was the correct setting, but the results, although correctly exposed, were still too harsh and the best shots came from natural lighting, but still not good enough. I had not brought the rim light with me today.
After two days of arachnids, I did not intend posting a third unless a backup was required, so I perused the rest of the grove to see what the blip monster had for me. I walked the edge of the stream bank slope, as that is where the dragons come from. Nothing was happening there so I walked over to the compost mound.
It was looking very sad, weighed down with a mountain of rakings, but this does not seem to have deterred the lizards. I spotted one soaking up some ultraviolet energy. As I very slowly moved in, it indicated to me that I had been spotted by turning his head side on. Still determined to soak up the rays, he held his ground and allowed me to approach, now on my knees, to within three feet before scampering off.
The droplet of water on its head was an encouraging sign that I had a chance of a close shot, as it indicated that the lizard had only just started to move and would be very sluggish. Even though it was after midday, there was a definite and unusual chill in the air, by equatorial Indonesian standards of course. I managed about twenty shots and was happy that I had a blip in the can.
I was about to return to the lab when a brown dragon landed on a protruding stick. Again, I was able to get really close, while he occasionally hopped into the air to pluck a small fly, always returning to the same perch. Tip - when photographing dragons, if the dragon flies off, stay absolutely still for a few seconds and the dragon may well just be hunting and will always return to the same perch in just a second or two.
The dragon shots were very good, but the lizard won the blip spot easily.
Update - Streamside skink-Sphenomorphus maculatus