Amazing spiderweb with dewdrops like necklaces

by Alessandro Zocchi

Dewdrops are fascinating subjects for macro photography. They give an immediate feeling of freshness and their perfect shape attracts the eye. The spider was not home, but the beauty of this web was striking.
While I was taking classic pictures of single drops hanging from the tip of blades of grass, I noticed a spider web among some twigs. Every thread had a row of drops like a pearl necklace. It was clear to me there was a shot in there somewhere. A picture of something similar from the book "Closeups in Nature" by the iconic nature photographer John Shaw came to my mind. I wanted to recreate something like that.


Nikon D200  .  Tamron 90mmf/2.8  .  90mm  .  1/60s  .  f/5.6  .  ISO100


The web was in perfect condition, and all the threads were straight and holding many drops. It was also quite flat being a small web and able to sustain the drops' weight. I knew that in order to get the drops shine I had to shoot the web in backlight, but there was no direct sun around, so I had to use a flash. I took the flash out of my bag and set it to control it remotely. For the first shot, I just laid the flash under the web, slightly off center. Holding the camera by hand, I manually set the macro lens at its minimum focusing distance to get the maximum magnification, and then started to look for an appealing composition. 


"At the widest aperture setting, the diaphragm blades disappear inside the lens barrel forming a circular opening that transforms out-of-focus points of light into perfect circles."

I wanted to create a picture where only a few drops were sharp and all the others were more and more out of focus, creating circles of light that gradually increased in diameter. To get this special effect, the aperture must be wide open. At the widest aperture setting, the diaphragm blades disappear inside the lens barrel forming a circular opening that transforms out-of-focus points of light into perfect circles. In order to maximize the effect, the camera should be oriented as transversal as possible to the web, so that parts of the web are very close to the lens and other parts are further away.

The first shots revealed a strong flare from the flash, so I moved it a little further away from the web, but still aimed the flash head toward the camera. Then I found a point of the web with a dew drop slightly larger than the others and I focused precisely on it, tilting and shifting the camera to get all the threads diagonal, and positioning the in-focus drop close to the left line of the rule of thirds. As is often the case in outdoor macro photography, there was enough breeze to induce vibrations in the web. The shutter speed was determined by the flash’s light, so it was fast enough to freeze any movement. But the main difficulty was getting the big drop in focus while it was swinging. Patience, as usual, paid off and after a few shots I captured the image I wanted.

"As you can see from the photo data, I also used 1/60 second as a flash synchronization shutter speed, and for good reason."

As you can see from the photo data, I also used 1/60 second as a flash synchronization shutter speed, and for good reason. The flash provided enough light for a good exposure on the drops, but the smooth, green background was created by the slow shutter speed, which allowed enough time for some ambient light on the background to hit the camera's sensor.

The result is an abstract picture that conveys the idea of the spider web and illustrates the parts of nature that are difficult to see with the naked eye. The composition inside the frame and the special lighting make both the sharp and the out-of-focus details stand out.
 
POST PROCESSING
Post-processing was minimal. I increased Brightness, Contrast and Saturation just a bit in Photoshop.
 
BIOGRAPHY
I’m a research scientist, photographer and photography instructor in Rome. As a photographer, I’m specialized in nature macros, people portraits and social events. I am a contributor to twelve microstock photo agencies, lead photo walks in Rome, teach photography courses and workshops, and I am the author of the "Handbook of Nature Macro Photography."
Check out my homepage  

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