Anatomy of a photo #64: The surprise in the flower

It wasn't until I was home and reviewing the images that I saw I had captured a little surprise- a small spider inside

The Seep-spring Monkey Flower is one of my favorite plants, and while I must admit that it is partly for the name, it is also for its shape and color. I hadn’t known much about this impressive flower, other than its name, until just now, as I researched it briefly for this post.

I had always thought of Mimulus guttatus, as a flower specific to my coastal habitat, thriving in the shadows of this fog soaked, wet habitat (including the salty shores of our local waterways), however it appears to be a survivor, found throughout a wide range, including the geysers of yosemite and the trailings of copper mines. It also appears to be a very well known flower, with over a thousand scientific papers written on it, due to a facility for being studied evolutionary wise, and ecologically. Its genome has been fully mapped and well studied.

I took the photograph of this distinctive yellow flower, on the north-eastern shores of Tomales Bay. I had kayaked up the bay late in the spring, when I saw several of these flowers beckoning to me, urging me to leave my kayak and wander the shores, photographing them. I obliged, and when I returned home I found I had captured more than I realized in my images.

Inside of a flower there was a very small spider, living within its throat. No matter how carefully we compose and plan a shot, we can find ourselves with something extra, that we never planned on, sometimes for the better. The spider adds to the story, showing an extra window into the life of this flower and how it interacts with the world around it.

I likely would not have noticed the spider, except that I took this image while the flower was in deep shadow. Being fully within shadows, the lighting was even, without the extreme highlights and blocked up shadows that you can find in full or partial sun. This would especially have been a problem with this photograph, as I captured it at noon, when the sun was directly over head, and would have been especially problematic for causing harsh contrast. However, since everything was in shadow, I was able to expose evenly, capturing the fine details of the flower, and thereby the spider.

I used a long lens set to a “macro” setting (see yesterday’s post about Point Reyes Checkerbloom for more on this). An open aperture gave a shallow depth of field, blurring the background and keeping the focus on the flower.

It wasn't until I was home and reviewing the images that I saw I had captured a little surprise

ISO 800, 300mm + 1.4x converter, f/7.1, 1/400th

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
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1 Response to Anatomy of a photo #64: The surprise in the flower

  1. Vicki says:


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