Cheapskate Tuesday 12: the Salticid Startler®

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artist’s impression of the Salticid Startler® fitted to the Monster Macro Rig.

This week’s Cheapskate Tuesday I introduce plans and preliminary work on prototypes of a fun new tool that I hope will enable photographers to achieve better and more consistent shots of the macro shooter’s best friend: Cute jumping spiders gazing into the camera lens!

One of the challenges of jumper photography is to get opportunities of getting those head-on, deep-staring shots that make folks swoon for the sheer cuteness. Although jumping spiders  will sometimes fixate on the lens, often they think there is something better to look at just out of frame. Stupid jumpers!

Always looking away!

The rationale for the Salticid Startler  is that possibly, when faced with  an accurately painted model of a jumper with nice shiny chelicerae and bright shiny eyes, a jumper will have no choice but to stare into the lens.

The scientific rationale is that Salticids (jumping spiders) are highly visually oriented creatures, that can recognize other spiders and respond to visual cues for courtship and combat. With this in mind, I am hoping that my model, affixed in front of and below the lens will hold their attention and allow for better and longer photo opportunities.

“Look right into the camera baby… Dammit!”

To make my prototypes, I am using Sculpey, a type of polymer clay that can be baked into nice plasticky hardness. For five rather over sized models I have used about 1/4 a block (about $1.25 worth).

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I will not bore you with details of construction, because that will not help anyway…This stuff is tough to work with if you have large hands! Practice with it and hopefully you can achieve better details than I have!

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I will make nice beady, shiny eyes of painted epoxy, and use acrylic paints for the body. I am thinking a nice green metallic nail polish will make a nice finish for the chelicerae of a model for Phidippus johnsoni. You can substitute other colours for whatever species you are targeting.

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Prototypes after baking

You will note that the prototypes are way too big…This may be a problem, but alternatively, it may act as a supernormal stimulus, which will increase their effectiveness. I plan on having someone with more nimble fingers make some more life sized ones…

shiny eyes and chelicerae: the key!

These are my thoughts for the Salticid Startler… I don’t have the talent or patience of Thomas Shahan (a god in jumper photography), so I am thinking these might be a lifesaver on my rare jumping spider outings…If any experts would like to offer suggestions, or just shoot the idea down outright, I am all ears eyes!

8 thoughts on “Cheapskate Tuesday 12: the Salticid Startler®

  1. That’s hilarious! Just a couple of weeks ago I was cruising dollar stores to see if there were any toy spiders that I could convert to use in the same way, but your idea is much better. I will have to get someone else to model it for me, mine would probably end up look like Homer Simpson…

  2. I think jumping spiders are the cutest thing too. Are you sure they won’t faint when they see the decoy you make? Or maybe the male’s will turn tail and run off faced with a female that size! 😉

    Not sure when I’ll get around to it but I’m planning on making a jumping spider as a stuffed toy. They’re fuzzy enough and those big eyes make them look adorable. After all, there’s so many other stuffies, many rather dumb, so I’d imagine a jumping spider would help a kid to grow up loving spiders.

  3. I am not sure what they will do! I have a friend who studies these, and he thinks there is a good chance that with male Phidippus johnsoni at least I will be able to observe some territorial behaviour.
    Good plan with the toy! I would like to see what you come up with!

  4. Pingback: Cheapskate Tuesday 13: Little progress on the Salticid Startler®, but here are some more bees! | Ibycter

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