Spider Webs. Not Just for Halloween

Spider webs are pretty amazing structures from an engineering standpoint. The silk strands nearly rival steel in terms of tensile strength (roughly defined as the greatest amout of stretching that a material can undergo without breaking). The silk is also highly elastic, enabling the webs to withstand all manner of forces. No wonder material scientists have spent so much time studying them.

From a photographic perspective, spiders’ webs are no less marvelous, given their geometry and form. I’m most intrigued by webs that collect water drops after a gentle rain, or webs that trap and hold morning dew. I’m also fascinated by the organic and inorganic material that winds up getting trapped in a web long after the master spinner has moved on.

Here’s a sampling of my spider web photos. (If spiders aren’t your thing, don’t worry; none of the web owners are featured in the photos.)

Geometry Gives Way to Freeform
The following two photos were taken on a dock in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The dock railing and vertical posts provided a convenient place to string a web. The webs start off in a classic geometric pattern, then gracefully distorts under the weight of water droplets, sometimes resembling elegant necklesses.



You can see more webs on the dock at Boothbay Harbor, here.  (All of the images in the Boothbay dock series were taken with a Fuji XT2 + Zeiss 50mm/F2.8 macro lens.)

Up Very Close
The following extreme closeups focus on two small sections of a web strung between fence posts, and entwined in vine runners and leaves. When I saw the water drop through the viewfinder, I was stuck by how it resembled the nucleus of a neuron surrounded by dendrites.

A few inches to the right, I found a portal of sorts that seemed to be an invitation into a magical realm. My goal was to use shallow depth of field to create a sense of depth and mystery

You can view more images of the fence post web here, and an animation simulating a journey through the “rabbit hole” here. (The images were taken with a Nikon D810 + Micro Nikkor 105mm f2.8 lens.)

And Now for Something a Little Darker (Literally)
For the past three months, I’ve been noting changes in several spiders’ webs around my house. In particular, I was interested in how leaves, seeds, and other bits and pieces that got caught up in the strands appeared to float in space. I’ll be culling through hundreds of images to create a series called “Suspended,” but here’s a sneak peak of some of the images from the project.



The webs I’ve been observing are now history, washed away during an intense rain storm (they’re strong, but not infallible).  That’s OK; I’ll have a lots of photos to process this winter. Stay tuned for more images from the Suspended series. (Photos in this series were taken with a Fuji XT2 + Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 macro lens and a Nikon D810 + Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 lens.)

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