One Subject, Eight Legs, Eight Ways
One exercise that had a lasting effect on me in Elizabeth Stone’s and Doug Johnson’s Intermediate Photography Workshop four years ago was how to work a scene. We learned to shoot from the same spot or shoot a single subject at least eight different ways. In the macro world having the mindset to find eight different perspectives of a single subject often leads to surprising creative discoveries.
Just in time for Halloween, I’d like to use the example of a spider I encountered in the park the other day. This spider stood out near the top of a stand of tall grass because of its huge and colorful abdomen. I must have shot it for more than an hour and in that time learned how it had somehow strung together the bushy ends of several stalks to create a shelter and hiding spot like a penthouse but always kept a leg on a strand to sense the vibrations caused by bugs that found their way into its web.
I kept my gear and camera settings the same for all the shots (ISO 100, f/16, 1/60 sec., 90mm macro lens, 20mm extension tube, and twin flash), and adjusted only the exposure compensation on the flash as needed. Sometimes I was able to use my tripod, but more often I had to handhold to avoid any disturbance of the spider.
The result: shots from the front, side, back, underneath, top, up-close, further back, with the filtered setting sun as a backlight, on the web, in the shelter, and perched on the grass. Same spider, eight (or more) different ways. Each unique, each conveying its own story. And all pretty creepy especially if you’re a bug.