Dissecting "Spiders in the Sand"
Back in March 2017, Dr. Jim Carrel took me out with him into the Florida scrub to demonstrate how he monitors two species of scrub burrowing wolf spiders, a research project he has been running for over thirty years. This photo was one of my favorites right away. Sometimes an image just "pops" for me, but it only happens when a number of elements line up in a harmonious way.
Take a look at the digital contact sheet of some of the photos I took of Jim. Do any of them pop for you? Can you tell which one I ultimately used?
Let's dissect the image. When I look at the photo, a few things stand out to me, including: a wide angle and that shows off the person and the setting, making us feel close-up while also having context for the scene; the grass on the left and the right connect the busy bottom part of the image with the almost negative space of the sky, which also acts as a framing device; a figure that really stands out from the background; a dynamic pose relating to an unfamiliar but interesting activity; and the low horizon, white sand, and graphic palmetto fronts that give it an exotic look. I also just love seeing the clothing and tools that researchers use while working "in the field."
Tonight is the first time I've really looked at this photo in color. Yes, this is a digital image, so the original RAW file is in color. However, I don't feel like I've really seen one of my photos until I've played around with contrast, sharpness, temperature, vignetting, and other elements, so in that sense I hadn't seen it in color. Generally, I prefer black and white photos, but the last few months I've been challenging myself to work more with color. I do still like it in black and white, but the color version is fun, too.
Jim also posed for a portrait during the same outing. Choosing what image to use as the final portrait I use for my "Florida Stewards" project can be tough. Here are three of the finals.
I was probably never going to go with the smiling photo, I do like the middle portrait but ultimately I found the background too distracting. I decided on a shot where Jim really stood out from the background. Plus, I thought his pants looked great.
If you want to know more about Jim's work with burrowing spiders, Archbold Biological Station recently made a short film about it.