These Three Photographs – Spider Webs

This is the latest post in an occasional series called These Three Photographs, where I look back at three photographs I’ve made around a similar theme or subject.

You can see previous posts in the series here.

This time around, spider webs.

There are many natural phenomena that never cease to amaze me with their intricacy, and one of my absolutely favourites are spider webs.

This first photograph I made with my Nikon Coolpix P300 only a matter of days after purchasing it, in November 2011.

Now, the camera’s name sounds unspectacular, just another in a conveyor belt of many dozens (hundreds?) of Coolpix models, the range name itself eternally uncool of course, simply because they put the word “cool” in it.

But for me this camera was a game changer.

It was the first “proper” cameras I bought after five or six years of using Sony Cyber-shot phone cameras.

Kind of ironic to say this now, as phone cameras are more capable than many dedicated compact cameras, but back then, a decade ago almost to the day, to go to another level of control and detail, you needed to invest in a fully fledged camera that wasn’t embedded in a phone body.

The P300 taught me many things, and honed what I’d discovered through trial and error with the Sony phones.

That is, that I enjoyed close up shots of beautiful natural compositions, usually with the subject in sharp focus and the background dreamily blurred.

This tapped deeply into my core purpose of making photographs – to emphasise and heighten the impact and wonder of what I stumbled across, beyond what our eyes do (and can do) naturally, and then share it with others to remind them of the dazzling beauty all around us too.

Spider webs, dappled with early morning dew, and most often in autumn and winter, became a staple that I never seem to tire of.

Another early shot with the Nikon Coolpix P300, and again it helped me take what I had dabbled with, with the camera phones, to another place.

The high contrast black and white mode of the Nikon was a revelation for me.

I’d tried b/w modes on the phone cameras but there was little room for adjustment.

At this point “post processing” to me meant the series of steps the postal service undertook between a letter or parcel being posted, and it arriving reliably on the recipient’s door step a few days later.

The b/w output of the phones cameras was just all shades of grey without any kind of drama or contrast. So I largely stuck with colour photos.

But the P300 took b/w and cranked up the contrast, making those blacks deep and inky, the whites bright and crisp, and even the greys in between somehow warmer and more resonant.

Which meant I could lean much more into experimenting with more minimal compositions, like the one above.

I’m not sure I’ve made many – or any – images better than this, with simple, solid shapes in the background, and something far more pretty and intricate in the foreground to complement it, in this case those delicious dew dropped spider webs again.

It also somehow tapped into to the same kind of structure and form and feeling in much of my favourite art – think Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman – and music like Labradford and Stars Of The Lid.

Minimal, primal, beautiful, spacious, and intimate.

As so with this third image, taken a matter of days ago and almost a decade since the two above, we come full circle.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about what it represents.

On one hand I’m pleased I found a kind of style and approach I love fairly early on into photographing with intention. Since then I’ve been able to subtly hone what I began ten years ago, finding incremental evolution, without any radical diversions or reinventions.

On the flip side however, I wonder why, if I was making these kinds of images in 2011, with a camera I still have and that works just as well today, did I buy all of those other hundreds of cameras in between?

Maybe you need to try what else is out there to help you realise how good what you already have is?

An approach that would likely be disastrous with relationships, we can try with cameras with relatively little damage, aside from to our wallets (which varies depending on your tastes, I’ve always been a cheapskate with cameras myself) and pride – feeling sheepishly like I do that we’ve spent a decade walking in a circle – or repeated circles.

How about you? How has your photography and choice of subject(s) changed (or not) over the last decade?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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6 thoughts on “These Three Photographs – Spider Webs”

  1. I seem to always come back to flower pictures… I never get tired of the textures and colors.
    Fall pictures are also something that never gets old.
    I wish I had more time and lived in a more crowded area – people pictures are also a favorite of mine.

    1. Yeh, I’m with you with flower pictures. Endlessly appealing and beautiful.

      I’m glad I don’t live in a very populated area, I don’t like people getting in the way in my photos ha ha!

  2. In that second frame, I love the combination of obvious geometry with the jeweled delight of dewdrops on the web, that’s gorgeous. The third, bottom frame reminds me of one of those aerial maps that show population density or nighttime light pollution. But that’s just sort of what it reminds me of……in and of itself I find it peculiarly epic in scale. But maybe I’m thinking of population density and not getting the visual of the North American continent out of my head.

    Hundreds of cameras? I know you’ve had lots but hundreds? That’s amazing! I’ve only had a handful, probably less than a half dozen.

    Ten years ago I just couldn’t get enough of landscape scenics. But then with the overexposure of mass social media unveiling fragile wildlands, leading to a relative stampede to those places, my appetite for sharing pictures from there really diminished. These days I find far more enjoyment out of documenting seen things around town. And I dunno, maybe it’s also just a product -of having a family now and it’s just a lot easier to find time to shoot closer to home. So I’ve adapted, I guess.

    1. Thanks Jason. That’s really interesting about the points of light and a cityscape at night. Yes I love that often when you photograph something up close with no frame of reference, it could equally be something vast like the surface of a planet or cities at night. If you go tiny enough, it kind of loops right round and goes epic again. I wrote about a relating phenomenon a while back with music and the visual image, how if you add enough layers it becomes like stillness, one single sheet or layer, again it kind of loops round from a building chaos, then suddenly into silence.

      I don’t know the exact number of cameras, but yeh it’s in the hundreds. The private view of my Flickr has around 150 albums named by camera, and tons more by lens and film. Some I may have only shot a hundred photos with (or less), but the favourites have made thousands, and tens of thousands of images by now.

      I’ve read that about certain picturesque places being photographed to death and overrun with casual photographers. Like those pictures you see of people queuing at the top of mountains to get to the summit, as there as so many others trying to do the same! There’s always beauty around us, we just have to get on our hands and knees and breathe it in.

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