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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Silk Road to Enlightenment

On 20 June 2017, I posted some pictures of colorful strands of silk in a spider web.  I was so taken with the phenomenon that I went out to try again yesterday morning.

First, I'll show two photos with the spider.  Although it is hard to believe, these are the actual colors created by diffraction as the early morning light hit the spider web!

Next is a series of close-ups of the strands in the center of the web, some of which are shown in the photos above.  [You can click on the images for larger versions.]

In one photo I captured some of the strands directly adjacent to the spider.  Eric calls this image "The Silk Road."  The diversity of colors is amazing.

I can't help sharing one more series.  This morning I focused on one section of one particular thread.  Its appearance changed, likely depending on when I took the picture and the camera settings.  Remember, this entire series (below) is of the same thread (!).  There are so many colors in these pictures, that I started wonderingif you kept photographing spider webs, could you discover new shades of colors?

Spending time with these spiders and their silk strands has certainly been inspiring and enlightening for me!  :)


David A. Hofmann said...

Who would of thought that the web of a European Garden Spider Araneus diadematus (or Cross Spider) could produce these colors from sunlight.

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, David!

Thanks so much for identifying this spider! I was so focused on the colors in the web that I hadn't had time to work on the identification yet. Many thanks!

:) Jackie

Unknown said...

Beautiful so cool!!!!

wendy in port townsend said...

Your photos are absolutely fascinating! I'd never noticed that phenomenon, and now can't wait to observe it myself. Thank you!

Alice Chan said...

Finding stunning rainbows in cobwebs. I don't know that it gets any more poetic than this.
I'm reminded of a sentence from Flannery O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find." It's a throw-away sentence, but I first read the story 50 years ago, and the image from the sentence has stayed with me: "The trees were full of silver-white sunlight, and the meanest of them sparkled."
Finding extraordinary beauty in ordinary things. Yes.

Anonymous said...

Inspiration? It reminds me of all the colors in Guatamala, just google images Central America Weaving :)

Sandy Sharp said...

Bodega CA

I've seen rainbows in dew drops on spider webs before, but nothing like this. The repeated patterns are fascinating. The first ones reminded me of Thai silk because of the shininess; the one in strips is relatively flat an reminds me of Madras cotton.

Unknown said...

A totally remarkable series!!!Not surprising, coming from the exceptional naturalist / artist Jackie! She is the BEST!!!

Vic Chow said...

Fascinating and beautiful. Is there a shimmer to the colors when you are watching in real time? Are the strands vibrating?

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Vic!

I have lots of questions about this, too. In real time, with my eyes, I can see that some of the web strands are lit up by the sun...and they do appear very colorful. But I can't see the detail as shown in the photos. That's only apparent after the pictures have been downloaded and I zoom in.

I'm guessing that there is some movement of the web. But I'm not exactly sure how it all comes together. Note that in the photo with the spider, the spider is pretty much in focus. So I'm guessing that the strands around it are moving. I was aware of that at times -- e.g., the web was moving back and forth, or the spider might have "pulsed" and caused the web to "jump" -- but in a very quick and elastic way, rather than swinging back and forth with the breeze.

The colored strands as shown in the photo are slightly out-of-focus, although I'm surprised at how relatively sharp they appear -- i.e., they're not blurry, per se.

Lots to think about and learn about!

:) Jackie

Melani King said...

What kind of camera/lens do you use to be able to capture this? They are beautiful and stunning!

-Melani King
Pt. Richmond

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Melani,

Although I've been taking pictures for about 30 years now (!), I'm more of a naturalist than a photographer, so I'm afraid I won't be too much help in explaining the finer details of the equipment or the photographic process. But I'll do my best to answer your question.

These pictures were taken with a digital 18-55 mm zoom lens, so nothing too fancy. (This lens does allow me to take pictures at a close distance.) I primarily use a Canon 7D camera body, which probably helps with image quality -- i.e., it's a nice camera, with a large number of megapixels and a large digital sensor, so I can magnify the center of the image after it has been downloaded and still maintain a high quality image.

In general, though, what's amazing to me is that these images aren't really the equivalent of taking photos under a microscope. The color bands in a spider web strand can be captured with a standard digital SLR camera and a basic zoom lens!

I still don't quite understand how it all works. I basically got lucky the first time, and now I have lots of questions about what's going on with the optical effects of spider webs and how to improve my chances of capturing something similar in the future.

Two of the most basic lessons I've learned from these pictures = Experiment, and look closely! You never know what kind of beauty awaits in your backyard!