Frost on a web (plus thoughts on lighting / processing)

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faunagraphy Senior Member • Posts: 2,128
Frost on a web (plus thoughts on lighting / processing)

We've been having some frosty weather, and I found a spider web, buffeted by the cold winds, with ice crystals forming all over it. The web is under a steel railing of a staircase and very much exposed to the wind.

I used my OM-1 and 60mm macro for these shots. However, the real stars were the FL-LM3 flash and for some photos, also a LumeCube with an amber filter and a diffuser. I wasn't sure what kind of lighting would bring out the most '3D' detail in post processing, so I tried a few different things.

This one, for instance, used on-camera flash and the LumeCube off to the left (you can see a bit of its light in the lower left corner).

Some detail from the edges of the web. As I recall, this was shot with just the flash alone. View at 100%:

The wind made focus stacking impractical, so all were shot stopped down.

Again, just the flash. Honestly, I like photos that used the LumeCube on one side, for bringing out the details of the ice crystals.

Some photos were lit with only the LumeCube, but they lack the crisp detail of the ones with flash, aside from being a bit blurry due to the wind. So they all ended up in the reject pile.

As for post-processing, these photos were:

  • Shot in RAW
  • Optically corrected, denoised and exported as DNG files in PhotoLab5. Denoising was unnecessary but I did it just because it was there.
  • Batch-sharpened gently in Topaz Sharpen AI to enhance the existing detail
  • Colors enhanced in Skylum Aurora HDR or Luminar 4. Some files looked better as single-image HDRs and others without it.

Some photos looked beautiful with both HDR and normal processing.

Here's a file processed in Luminar 4:

... And the same RAW file exported with default settings (no "Looks") in Aurora HDR:

As you can see, this image has some nice starburst effects which are missing in the prior file. This was a pleasant surprise, as I wasn't aware that the 60mm macro is capable of such nice starbursts!

The starbursts were present in the RAW, just not readily visible. I could not bring them out without HDR processing, no matter how I played with the sliders in DxO or Luminar.

However, the HDR effect washed out detail in many other files, so it needs to be used judiciously.

And now the same scene, but with just the flash and no LumeCube. It looks more white / silver. Which of these three you like is a matter of taste:

To my surprise, I also found that the web was very much in use. Before I show some detailed photos, here's one of her in the background, which I find very ominous and atmospheric at the same time:

And now a boring sharp photo.

The spider had spun a "sleeping bag" of silk on the underside of the railing - I assume for protection from the cold or to avoid falling to the ground while in a state of torpor. Well, either that, or this is a funnel web spider who has coincidentally chosen the same spot as the garden orb spider who spun the web. The reason I'm confused is that I've never seen a garden orb spider construct a funnel like that. Charmingly, she also has at least one baby who has survived and sheltering with her.

It is truly inspiring, the ingenious solutions that animals, even cold-blooded ones with "simple" minds come up with, to survive, and the pains that they take to protect their babies!

Thank you for viewing!

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Central India --> Pacific Northwest. Favorite lenses: Olympus 300mm Pro, 8mm Pro. Favorite subjects: leopards, swallows, ospreys.

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