Jumping Spider on fingertip

pic Photographed using a Nikkormat Ftn camera and Nikkor 50mm standard lens with extension tubes (68mm) and twin flash units on home-made bracket, hand-held; taken at f16 (at 1/125th sec, flash effective speed 1/1000th sec) on Kodachrome 25 film rated at ISO 25 and processed normally; no filters used.

Manual flash exposure.

London, England.

The story behind the picture....

"Jumping Spiders are a wonderful group in the world of spiders as they do not use a web to ensnare their prey but actively hunt for prey which they can locate with their two larger-than-normal front eyes. These give them good binocular vision and excellent distance perception, allowing them to sneak up on their unsuspecting prey and then, when they get within range, they are able to launch themselves forward onto their victim.

"They are also able to leap across quite large gaps between leaves, branches, cracks in walls, etc., and, much as a rock climber uses rope and temporary fixtures for protection against falling, the jumping spider uses a single strand of silk web as a 'safety line', sticking it down at frequent intervals and often 'abseiling' down vertical surfaces. When the spider jumps onto a fly of a similar size to itself, this 'safety line' often acts as an anchor should the fly manage to take off, and, depending on whether it feels able to subdue the fly, the jumping spider will either wrestle the fly back down to the ground (or surface, if vertical) or let go of the fly as soon as it can!

"On one occasion, I witnessed one such jumping spider sneak up on a fly that was almost three times its size. It leapt onto the back of the fly only to be carried off when the fly took flight - what the outcome was remains a mystery!

"This particular jumping spider is a fairly common one to be found in urban areas, preferring garden fences and walls of houses (outside and inside), and was discovered on the kitchen wall of a friend's flat. Quite often these tiny creatures will turn and look towards you as you approach them, angling their two main eyes to look directly at you and following you around if you move left or right. A cautiously offered finger will often be treated as a place suitable to jump to and so, with this in mind, I set up the camera for a big close-up with flash units on a bracket, the whole of which I could (just!) hold in one hand, ready to take a photograph of the spider should it jump onto the fingertip of my other hand (I was on my own at the time).

"With the camera ready, I extended my finger in as friendly a manner as possible (to the spider it probably looked the same as the close approach of a huge zeppelin would look to us). The little spider scrutinised it for a moment or two and then leaped onto it. Quickly, I moved my fingertip with spider in front of the lens, found focus and took the picture.

"Imagine standing at the entrance to an enormous tunnel with an office block on either side of it and this will give some idea of what the lens and flash units would look like to the spider! Nevertheless, it gave no reaction at all to the bright flash (do jumping spiders get spots in front of their eyes?!) and remained on my fingertip long enough for me to (manually!) wind-on the film and get several more shots before it became too active and started to sky-dive off my finger, dangling by its silken safety-line.

"Taking it to the window of the sixth-storey flat, I released it onto the outer brickwork and the tiny creature went on its way, almost certainly oblivious of the fact that it was probably the spider equivalent of six hundred storeys!"

Geoff Doré

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