How to Shoot Spider Webs?

July 14, 2021

    I got up early this morning (6:20 am) to go on my walk before it got too hot.  Surprise! Fog!
    Bucknell’s rugby field this morning at 6:40 am in the fog. I’m standing on Stein Lane shooting southeast. On the far left below the trees, you can make out a car on Route 15.

I immediately noticed many spider webs.  I thought to myself, “A great day to take photos of spider webs!”  Normally you can’t see the spider webs like in the photo above. The reason one could see them this morning is that the dense fog caused little droplets of dew all over the webs.  A close examination shows many tiny beads of water on the web’s fibers.  This occurs when there is dense fog and no breeze to blow the drops off.   Spiders are great weather predictors and will build their webs when the weather conditions are favorable such that the webs won’t be damaged, e.g., by rain or strong wind.  The eight-legged critters were very active last night.
  The above webs are tangle webs and are not so interesting to photograph.  But they are excellent indicators that their friends, the orb spiders, may have built their pretty orb webs nearby.
    Close up of a tangle web showing the tunnel where the spider will hide and drag its victims.
Shot of an orb spider’s web.  This is the spider web we know from Halloween.


    How to photograph orb spider webs? 
       1. You need to get up early in the morning and search for the orb webs.  This is best on a morning with dense fog, when the air is very still, e.g., no breeze, and when many tangle webs can be seen due to the heavy dew on the fibers.
       2. Search among the tree branches on your and your neighbor’s properties for the orb webs 5-10 feet above the ground. Evergreen trees and hedges are great places to search.
       3. When you find an orb web, move around until you can see a dark background behind the web.  The contrast of the web against the dark background will make the web visible in your photo.  Otherwise, you may find the web can’t be seen in your photo. ☺ Notice in the image above how the web seems to disappear in the background’s brighter areas.
       4. Shooting orb webs will test your camera’s focusing capabilities as well as your own focusing skills!  To keep the whole web in focus, try to keep the plane of the web parallel to the plane of the camera’s sensor.  Since some cameras may refuse to auto focus on the thin strands of the web, you may have to resort to manual focus.
       5. You should use a tripod but that usually is not practical as an orb web may be high in a tree with no way to place a tripod.  I didn’t use a tripod this morning.  All shots were hand held.
    Zooming in on the orb web in the previous image.  You can see the tiny beads of dew on the strands.
    All the images were taken this morning using my new Canon EOS R6 Full Frame Mirrorless camera with a Canon RF 24-240mm zoom lens.
    A second orb web about a half block away from the first one. Interesting to study and compare the two patterns.
They have similarities–the two spiders are probably distant cousins. ☺
A third orb web.
A fourth orb web.
Zooming in on the spider in the middle of the fourth orb web.
Three “friends” watched me shoot the spider webs.

Keep shooting!

Posted by Dan Hyde

Dan is the Chair of the Lewisburg Photography Club.