Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spider on skeleton plant flower head

with 18 comments

Crab Spider on Sketleton Plant Flower 7550

Click for greater clarity and size.

While walking along the Smith Memorial Trail in northwest Austin on June 28th, I knelt to photograph the flower head of a Texas skeleton plant, Lygodesmia texana, and there I spied a spider. It shied away and tried to hide between two rays but then hied to a better side for me, as you see. It’s curious how the spider’s abdomen and a few of the creature’s smaller features picked up some of the purple from the floral rays ablaze with light.

It’s been almost two years since I showed any pictures of this species of wildflower, so if you aren’t familiar with it you’re welcome to look back at abstract views showing the base of a flower head and a close-up from above of a flower head’s center; that second image will show you the structures that cast the shadows visible at the bottom of today’s photograph.

Those of you interested in photography as a craft will find that points 1, 3, 6, and especially 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2013 at 6:19 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Lovely shot, Steve. The spider looks especially beautiful.

    Mufidah Kassalias

    July 30, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    • Hi, Mufidah. I don’t believe I’d ever seen a spider colored this way, so I was happy to be able to photograph it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2013 at 7:26 AM

  2. That spider did a nice job posing for you. I followed the links to previous posts for this plant. My ‘likes’ are registered. I also read the list of techniques and tips. You covered the possibilities well.

    Years ago, back in the ’70s, I did quite a bit of close-up work mainly on flowers. I had a Hanimex Praktica for a while, then later, Pentax and Fuji SLRs. I got some extension tubes and a reversing ring adapter. It all worked. But, it was like doing photography with a bazooka. 🙂 I finally could afford a lens with a macro setting. That sure helped.

    Another issue was the use of film, its cost, and delayed gratification. Today with digital, a person can try out all sorts of possibilities with immediate feedback. It really enhances the creative process. What a welcome change it is. Do you still use film at all?

    Keep up the good work…Jim

    Jim in IA

    July 30, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    • I’d noticed that you visited the linked articles and registered your likes. The two posts about the skeleton plant were so early that not many people knew the blog existed (and the same might still be said for the skeleton plant). The list of techniques evolved as the blog did: I looked at the photographs I was posting and abstracted the techniques I found myself using.

      From the many closeups I post here you can tell that I use my macro lens more than all the others combined. Having a macro lens—and a good one—is a lot easier than resorting to the makeshift techniques you mentioned, as you discovered.

      The last time I can remember using film was in the middle of the past decade. Every so often I go back and digitize an old negative or slide, but I don’t foresee ever using film again for new pictures. Oh, the times that were…

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM

      • We enjoy frequent walks here is eastern IA. There are numerous routes along trails near our home and not far away. It’s good to have the camera for the interesting stuff along the way. Here is an example my wife just posted on our joint blog. I believe you have this plant in Texas.

        Jim in IA

        July 30, 2013 at 8:20 AM

        • Yes, Queen Anne’s lace, Daucus carota, grows in Texas and in many other parts of the United States. As you point out on your site, it’s not native to the New World, and for that reason I haven’t featured it here. We have plenty of invasives here, so I’ve decided to concentrate on the species that are native to this area. There are more of those by far, and many are practically unknown even when they’re common. You could say that I’ve got my niche.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 30, 2013 at 9:02 AM

  3. Steven…..I love the dimension that this image has, nice……..en theos……jim

    Developing A New Image

    July 30, 2013 at 7:51 AM

  4. Effet superbe avec la transparence, j’adore. Ces petites araignées sont des guetteuses douées d’une grande patience pour traquer leurs proies.


    July 30, 2013 at 8:58 AM

  5. Very nice! I’m intrigued about the spider’s position. It looks like it’s suspended in midair, floating in front of the petal. Explain?


    July 31, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    • Glad you like it. A spider often stays attached to an object with a thread of its silk, and I believe that was the case here. The spider was touching the flower but was also partly suspended by the thread, ready to rappel if it decided I was a predator.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2013 at 6:33 AM

  6. I, too, was wondering about how the spider was ‘hanging there’; I looked to see if it had spun a thread to hang from, but it must be ‘hidden’ in the detail of the petals. Very cool capture, Steve! Right place, right time, armed with camera! 🙂


    July 31, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    • Even when I examine the full-size image at 100%, which I did just now, I can’t detect any silk, so I’m surmising that it was there. If I’m wrong, then I guess the spider’s leg that’s farthest back has a foothold on the flower. Or else the whole thing is magic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2013 at 5:26 AM

  7. I, too, was puzzled by the spider’s apparent mid-air suspension. I wondered if there was a twig or another flower outside the photo that its silk might be attached to. The I re-read your description, and realized that with all that shying and hiding and hieing, it probably was clinging to the flower itself. (And yes, I smiled at that sentence.)

    I enjoyed the other photos you linked to, especially that little “cage” – so delicate and interesting. I took a detour to the Elisabet Ney museum site, too. How nice for you to have your photos exhibited there, and what a beautiful place. Despite the time I’ve spent in Austin, there are many places I’ve never visited. The Ney museum is one. It’s time to remedy that.


    August 1, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    • It took me a moment to realize what you meant by the little “cage,” which I sometimes think of as akin to the structure at the center of a traditional light bulb. I have trouble accepting not only that it had been almost two years not only since I showed any pictures of skeleton plant flowers here, but also since that exhibit at the Ney. Last summer I took some pictures on the restored prairie there but I haven’t been back this year, outside or in. It’s one of the little gems of Austin, and you should plan to visit it one of these days, but there’s a piece of Ney’s heritage even closer to you at the Liendo Plantation near Hempstead:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2013 at 3:06 PM

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