Photographing Scary Things

Esther BeatonAustralian Geographic, Professional Photography

Can you ever become a good nature and wildlife photographer if you don’t love ALL of nature? Some subjects are easy – the beauty of colourful birds and the majesty of wild scenics draw us into their spell. The camera just magnetically pops into the hand to record these beautiful moments.

But how would you go if you had an assignment to photograph a collection of spiders? Personally, I found the job thrilling. You see, spiders have become my friends. My fascination started years ago when, on a trip to Queensland, I discovered the group of spiders called “araneomorphs”. Each one is more intriguing, more sensationally beautiful than the last. There were the spiky jewel spiders, the amazing ant-mimics, and the cutest little jumping spiders who would raise their eyes to look at you. Once familiar with these “modern” types of spiders, it wasn’t long before I found myself confronting the big baddies: the “mygalomorphs”. These “ancient” spiders are those large, colourless, hairy things that live in holes in the ground. One assignment I did for Australian Geographic was on the Sydney Funnelweb, probably the world’s deadliest spider, and I happily kept them at home in order to get ultra close up photos. (I won’t tell you the story of the escapee, but my partner Nick was not happy.)
It’s no wonder when this assignment from Australian Geographic came up, they thought of asking Esther, the spider wrangler, to carry it out. Would you be able to do this assignment? Do read the article in the current issue (July 2008) because it’s all about confronting your fears and how spiders can help you do that. I do believe there is nothing ugly in nature. I’ve stopped seeing things as good or bad, ugly or beautiful. Spider or human, we all fit into nature’s tapestry in our own unique way, part of a grand ecosystem.