Year End Countdown # 11 — “Blondie”
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Some of you may be surprised that I’m including an image of a tarantula as one of my favorite images for 2014, but I really like this photo and for more than one reason.
First, it’s a pretty good photo, don’t you think? It’s a really crisp, well-exposed image of a female Mexican Blonde Tarantula, nicely lighted and the composition isn’t bad.
But, what I really like about this photo is that it is of a female tarantula. Getting a photograph of a male tarantula isn’t a big deal in these parts, especially if one is willing to do some looking with a flashlight in total darkness. On nights during the summer monsoon, males get the urge to roam and they wander the land looking for love. I’ve found many males just by shining a light at the side of a trail. Females, on the other hand never roam. They’re homebodies who spend their entire lives either inside or within a few inches or feet of their burrows. So, finding and photographing a female tarantula out in the open is a pretty big deal. In fact, Blondie is the only female tarantula that I’ve seen in more than three years of wandering the desert looking for photographs.
Here’s how we met. Very early one hot August morning I went over to Sabino Canyon — to look for and photograph rattlesnakes. I was slowly patrolling an area where I’d seen a rattler just a couple of days previously when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught some movement on the ground. I froze in place, looked down, and just a couple of feet away from me I saw Blondie being circled warily by a Tarantula Hawk, a large predatory wasp that was clearly determined to attack the tarantula and turn her into food for her offspring. I immediately crouched down to get a photo. That was enough to spook the wasp, which flew away, leaving the tarantula untouched. The tarantula was pretty upset by the encounter. She beat a hasty retreat to her burrow, only about a foot away, and quickly crawled into it. I managed to get this image and a couple more in the few seconds that she remained above ground.
It was only after I’d taken my photos that I remembered that I was kneeling on the exact patch of ground where I’d encountered a rattlesnake. I looked around, saw nothing, and exulted at my success.
Photo taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, “M” setting, ISO 160, f16 @ 1/160.