I have never met anyone as passionate about spiders as Vida van der Walt, an incredibly detail-orientated perfectionist. Talking to her about these seemingly scary creepy-crawlies make her light up. Her enthusiasm and broad knowledge about the topic is commendable.

Before specialising in macro photography, Vida would chase around butterflies in her garden whilst trying to get a good shot using her small point-and-shoot Sony camera. Eventually, through photography, she started noticing the weird and wonderful world of miniature creatures that go unnoticed by most people. Completely captivated by what she learned, she wanted to share this fascinating world with other people. After asking around and doing some research, she came across the Outdoorphoto Gallery (a platform where photographers can share their work) where she learned a lot.

A spider is a spider is a spider… or not?

A spider is a spider, isn’t it? Wrong. Vida mostly photographs the cute, charismatic and intelligent jumping spiders of the family Salticidae. She says very enthusiastically that jumping spiders aren’t aggressive and that they have the greatest personalities. They even have impressive mating dances. Over the years, she has handled hundreds of jumping spiders (using a small paintbrush to move them around to ensure they go unharmed). And no, she’s never been bitten.

“Everything I do, I do because of passion.”

Through photographing jumping spiders, she met Professor Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman, “foremost South African arachnologist and an overall amazing woman”. She opened up Vida’s eyes to the possibility of contributing her photographs to science, and so she started documenting spiders for scientific books and created a website posting photos of South Africa’s jumping spiders. Seeing a new spider through her viewfinder for the very first time is what makes her tick. Had she not become a photographer, she would have probably liked to study zoology or become an entomologist or arachnologist.

Macro photography gear

When Vida started out with macro photography she watched YouTube videos and read tonnes of reviews. She was particularly inspired by the work of photographer Thomas Shahan, one of her favourite photographers. She has some serious macro photography gear but when it comes to backgrounds, she uses just about anything from leaves from the garden to flowers, patterned paper and feathers.

Macro photography

tips & tricks

Vida says that to get an amazing macro shot, there are a few things to make certain of but keep in mind that working with living things is always challenging.

  • Be patient
  • Diffuse your flash
  • Shoot against a clean background to isolate your subject
  • Find the aperture at which your lens is the sharpest and keep it in mind when you decide on the best compromise between depth and sharpness
  • Post your photos on a photo-critiquing site like the Outdoorphoto Gallery to learn from other photographers

“I hope to open people’s eyes and help them see the beauty in nature and spiders” – Vida van der Walt.

Photograph of a jumping spider sitting on a green leaf photographed by Vida van der Walt
Vida van der Walt photographs a jumping spider on a pink leaf