Two years ago I began posting a weekly macro blog, mainly because of the UK Covid-19 lockdowns, which only allowed us to leave the house once a day. I kept to those rules to protect other people, ultimately sacrificing much of the time I would have been able to spend with my Dad in the final two years of his life. If you’re in the UK and in touch with current affairs, I think you probably know why I’m making that point. During the lockdowns I spent a lot of time in my garden, in a house we had only just moved into, and relished the opportunity to get to know the tiny lives being lived in the small space of my back garden.
I mention all this because I now have nothing like the same amount of time to spend outdoors in the garden. So what time I do have out there is precious. One thing that hasn’t changed too much is that I am one of those privileged people who is able to work flexibly and I can visit my garden on breaks. I’m yet to receive a passive aggressive post-it note from a bespectacled Somerset MP.
I popped out one morning recently and found a neighbour had returned, though they were rather nervous about leaving their own quarters. For many people, it’s a similar issue.
Last June I got some of my best ever macro photos as I leant over my fence, straining my lower back to capture photos of a fencepost jumping spider. I was pleased to see this beautiful spider in the same spot once again this year. It was rather timid and if I got too close it would dart back in. The photo above has been edited to bring out the shadows so you can see those beautiful cartoon eyes. I think this species is mainly interested in hunting the flies and other winged-insects that bask on the hot spot of the fence top.
The spider did venture out on occasion, but after a couple of minutes I felt it was best to leave it to do its work, what is of course key to its survival.
Another week and it’s another spider post. This time, it’s a spider that also likes posts.
One evening a couple of weeks ago I had logged off from work and went out into the garden to look at something other than an email. It was a warm evening and the sun was dipping below the surrounding roofs. I noticed a blemish on the fence, a place of macro dreams.
I identified the blemish immediately as a jumping spider but one bigger than the usual crowd. Even better, it was sitting still!
The grey-brown colouring of the spider helped to camouflage it against the sun-bleached wood of the fence. It was no surprise at all, when looking at my spider book later, that I learned this was a fencepost jumping spider!
Finding a jumping spider as relaxed as this and in an accessible position can raise the adrenaline levels, meaning you can lose composure and not get images that are in focus. That said, probably about 90% of macro photos I take are out of focus because the range is wafer thin. The stars aligned this time, however.
The spider was so still that there were no issues. It seemed quite interested by me and looked straight down the lens, as far as I could tell.
One of these images will certainly go down as portfolio worthy, at least in terms of happy memories. And really there’s no better place to end this post than looking into the eyes of Britain’s largest jumping spider!
In June I did a long walk in the Surrey Hills around the famous Box Hill. The North Downs are absolutely fantastic walking country, being so easily accessible from London via public transport, having some of the UK’s rarest wildlife, along with dramatic hilly landscapes and views.