Working Distance

My wife took the following photo of me trying to get a shot of this giant, evil-looking spider while we were in Florida.  Ever since I moved to Washington, I’ve been shocked by the evilness and the size of the spiders here.  I’ve always had fear issues with bees and bee-related nightmares were pretty common.  Spiders, on the other hand, never really bothered me.  That was then.  Now, after doing battle with golf-ball-sized arachnids (armed only with a broom!) pregnant with their hellspawn, my bee nightmares have been replaced by spider nightmares.  Still, I try to be brave.

True macro lenses have a reproduction ratio of 1:1.  What that means is that the image being formed on the sensor or film is the same physical size as the object itself.  Contrast this to taking a picture of a person, where the image of them on the film is much smaller than they are in real life.  The working distance is the distance between the subject of the 1:1 photograph and the film or sensor plane.   Working distance scales with focal length, independently of sensor size.  What that means is that the 6mm focal length used on a small-sensor digicam has a very short working distance.  A 100mm macro lens allows the photographer to stay farther way from terrible demon creatures like spiders.

The shot below was the result of my attempts.  Not my favorite, by a long shot, but I like how the sunlight shines through the spider’s body.

That spider was tiny compared to the following spider, which I photographed from a safe distance using a 500mm focal length.  This spider is about the size of my hand with fingers outstretched.  Beautiful in a way, but mostly just disgusting.  The stuff nightmares are made of.


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