Spiders in Focus

This story appears in the December 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Spiders in Focus Jumping spiders are ornamental and agile, widespread and harmless. Yet like many spiders, they're often overlooked. Since 2007 I've been trying to change that. By creating high-magnification portraits of the ones I find in my native Oklahoma, I aim to open human eyes to these amazing arachnids. Since I first noticed one in my Tulsa backyard, I've been smitten. I began learning about their names and ways, then looking for them in local parks and reserves like the Oxley Nature Center, where I spied this thumbnail-size Phidippus putnami (above). Now that I know where they are—their silhouettes are often visible through the leaves they perch upon—I can spot them quickly. I try to photograph them where I find them, but I will sometimes gently escort one inside for a shoot before releasing it again.

The Salticidae family has hardly changed over millions of years. I think that's because they're perfectly evolved, with color vision, the ability to blend into their surroundings, and elaborate courtship and hunting techniques. Introducing people to their charm and beauty is what drives me.