Florida really bugs me

My husband and I spent a week in Florida last November. It was bliss: We had a wonderful family gathering, lots of beautiful weather — and the ocean was literally right across the street from our hotel.

It became a ritual for me to get up before dawn every morning and watch the sunrise on the beach. I’ll show you those photos some other day, though, because before we can step onto the beach we must first walk through a thicket of mangroves and sea grass. And do you know what lives in thickets of mangroves and sea grass?

BUGS. (Warning: Arachnophobia triggers.)

It was only my second time shooting with my new GX85, in which Panasonic has dispensed with the anti-aliasing filter for even sharper detail resolution. Although I’m still a tiny bit concerned about unintended moiré patterns I was impressed with the added sharpness (though you can’t really tell in these internet-sized images).

Upon returning home I learned that there can be such a thing as too much sharpness, though. All of the shots I took of this spiny orb weaver rendered the little critter with a weird, fakey-looking halo.

Closer inspection revealed the halo as individual hairs. Yes, people. SPIDER HAIRS!

Although they look creepy with their hard, spiky shell, they’re harmless to humans — and they always make me smile. (Don’t those black dots in the middle sort of look like a smiley face?) Alas, I saw only two spiny orb weavers.

The species I did see in great numbers was the regular ol’ orb weaver.

They’re named (rather unimaginatively) after the circular shape of their webs.

Looking at it up close I couldn’t help but marvel at the web’s complexity — and the engineering it took to secure it among the vegetation. Isn’t it cool to consider that these creatures hatch with the maps for their intricate webs already encoded in their little spider brains?

My solo morning strolls gave me the time one needs for macro photography. When your focal plane is this narrow — and when the wind keeps jostling your subject — maybe one frame in 50 is worth keeping.

Also, for good macro photography you must get quite close — which is how this very-pregnant-looking, 4-inch-long spider almost ended up on my forehead.

I imagine my expression looked something like this:

It all turned out OK, though, as no photographers — or spiders — were harmed in the making of this blog post. And after a while even the ginormous orb weavers started to look kind of cute.

Fortunately my hubby and I saw other sights as well. (But alas, it already seems like a lifetime ago. If not for the photos, you could convince me it was all a dream.)

But at least it was a good dream, even with all the bugs.

Alright then, that does it for the Florida bugs. Next up: the beaches!

Text and all images © Heather Munro.