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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Celebration of light

Tonight's post will start with some mystery close-ups.  More clues will be available as you progress through the images.  Can guess what this is?

A similar image, zoomed out a little farther:

Here's a similar pairing, but from a slightly different angle.  Notice that each long band is made up of many fine, colored stripes.  (Click on the images for larger and sharper versions.  These pictures are pretty mind-boggling!)

And now I'll zoom out a little farther.  Do you have a guess yet?  

Eric spotted this in our backyard this morning.  The photos were taken with my camera just before we left for work.

Are you ready?  The next photo will reveal the answer!

Yes!  This a spider web, one section of which was lit up in a very special way. 

Eric was brushing his teeth and looked out the window to see this spider web partly lit by the morning sun.  He rushed me out the back door to take a few pictures before we had to leave.  I struggled with the camera settings, and I didn't really know if any of the pictures had come out.  When I reviewed them later in the day, I was blown away to see the dazzling colors revealed in some of the close-ups.

To learn more about what produces the colors, I did a Web search, followed some threads, and found a few sites that describe optical effects in spider webs.  I'll admit that the physics behind this phenomenon are over my head.  However, it was interesting to note that some of the resulting colors are related to the structure of the sticky strands in parallel rows between the radial lines (or spokes) of the web.  These cylindrical silk threads are coated with adhesive droplets.  The droplets apparently act like miniature lenses!

I'll show one more picture, and will also explain one thing you might be wondering about.  I took these pictures with a relatively slow shutter speed.  The longer exposure time likely captured a small amount of web movement.  The wide bands of colored stripes are an artefact of the camera.  That is, the strands of silk are actually narrower than they appear in the photographs, but these images allow you to see the amazingly varied colors!

What a great way to celebrate the summer solstice — with an incredible light display!

With many thanks to both the spider and the sun...the orb-weaver and the orb!


Alice Chan said...

Terrific post! I knew right away what the mystery object was, because I've long been fascinated by spider webs and love seeing the colors in early morning sunlight. (I also love the effect morning mist has on spider webs.)

I laughed out loud, too, at your comment that you did a Web search - a web search on webs.

Thanks for this!

Darris B. Nelson said...


Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Alice and Darris,

Thanks for the feedback! This has been one of the most eye-opening discoveries of the year for me. I had no idea these silk strands were so colorful. Stay tuned for some more images sometime soon!

:) Jackie

Skip Hand said...

Great color diffraction patterns! I’ve looked for these patterns but never seen one, and guessed before you gave it away that it was a spider web. The rectilinear character of the first few images threw me at first. The right combination of sunlight and dark background are hard to find.
In "Color and Light in Nature" by Lynch and Livingstone(in Sonoma County Library) there is an article (pg 240 to 243) about out-of-focus viewing which includes how to photo spider webs. I’m guessing that the out-of-focus in your pics is the result of motion in the web or perhaps the camera.

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Skip!

Yes, we're lucky in that this web seems to be in a perfect spot. There's a dark wooden fence behind it, but it's suspended in the open, below a small tree, where the early morning light streams through.

I tried again this morning (hard to resist!), with some different results that I'll post sometime soon.

I can see how this would be a little addictive! We've been wondering if the color patterns differ between species or types of webs.

One additional note: I could see that the strands within the web were lit up and colorful, but I couldn't see the details. That only came once I downloaded the photos and zoomed in.

Thanks for the reference to Color and Light in Nature!