SPIDERS OF BRISBANE BY SERGIO GREZ
Since I was very young I was mesmerized by all the beauty and magic I could find in my own backyard. I always knew that out there, an incredible world of different shapes, colours and behaviours was waiting to be seen. Back in the day when I was a boy, I could spend countless hours investigating what was lurking in the shadows of my personal jungle at home but it wasn't untill I arrived in Brisbane, Australia in 2015 that I realized it was time to do something about my love for the incredible and tiny wildlife surrounding me everyday, which is very often overlooked and sometimes feared by people.
This is my personal search for what I find to be one of the most incredible adventures of my life, to rediscover my passion for spiders and to submerge myself into a journey that amazes me everyday.
As soon as I arrived in Brisbane I was impressed by the big green areas surrounding the city and even more astonished when I saw the wide diversity of insects and spiders filling every corner. It is not uncommon to see a big lizard crossing your way while walking to the Southbank Beach, a beautiful butterfly flying around while waiting for the bus, or a big Golden Orb Weaver Spider in almost every garden. As lover of nature, I knew I was in paradise.
Brisbane is considered one of the biggest Australian cities and even though its core is mostly urban, the borders are formed by different suburbs full of forests and reserves, each one differing from the other in terms of fauna, vegetation, ground, altitude, the amount of water and size.
The city has warm to hot sub-tropical weather during the most of the year, with summer being the season with the highest temperatures (reaching 30°C on the average day). A time when tropical storms happen more often, bringing higher precipitations in comparison to winter, which is drier and tempered. As I could learn, these weather characteristics build the perfect habitat for a never ending variety of species.
Illustration by Sergio Grez
From the start I knew Brisbane had a variety of spider species of great importance for science, so I tried to read everything that could lead me to the places where I could find these amazing creatures. I soon decided to focus my photography in three main places, two of them located right in my neighborhood and the third one on the other side of the city to the north-west.
1. - Chester Park Reserve (Mount Gravatt East).
2. - Toohey Forest Park and Mt Gravatt Outlook Reserve (Mount Gravatt East).
3. - D’Aguilar National Park (Between 10 km and 35 km north-west of Brisbane's city centre).
I was aware of the difficulties regarding macro photography, but thanks to Internet and magazines I was able to learn the basics. As soon as I got the chance I put my hands on a good entry level DSLR, a macro lens and even made a DIY flash diffuser, using aluminum food containers, paper towel and plastic plates. I must say that setup worked perfectly for me, since I was absolutely new to macro photography. Even though I know some extra equipment like off camera flashes and extension tubes might have yielded better results, I really couldn’t be happier with what I have achieved.
The most important thing is that every single one of my photographs has been taken in a natural habitat, always showing respect for every single living creature. This was my ultimate goal.
Preparation for a day of photography:
Let someone know where you are going (safety first).
Cellphone (in case of an emergency)
Band aids (in case of any cut produced by vegetation or accident)
Hat and suncream.
Camera cleaning kit.
Clothes you don't love too much.
Scissors (in case you have to repair your diffuser or reflector).
Tape (also handy for repairing stuff).
Umbrella (In Brisbane you never know when it's going to rain).
A head torch in case you go by night.
Enough food and water.
Keep everything clean!
Photo: Carola Cardoso Kuncar
As the expiry date of my work and holiday visa was coming closer, I had no other option but to come back to Chile. Nevertheless, I secretly keep the desire to return to Australia and continue living the incredible experience that this journey meant to me. What is more important, is to continue studying spiders and contribute to their protection and appreciation, which means to me more than just knowledge, but an inner passion that leads my life.
I must thank the invaluable help from Robert Whyte, author, editor, journalist and honorary researcher for the Queensland Museum, who is now preparing a new Guide of the Spiders of Australia to be published on 2017. His support with identifications, corrections and revision of the language were of vital importance for the realization of this project. You can check his work in his website Arachne.org.au.
I would also like to thank Mr. Ed Northcote, Manager for the Gateway Visitor Centres, who kindly let me explore the beauty of the reserve and gave me support by inviting me to talk to the rangers in order to get great information about the arachnid fauna and tips about where to find the elusive ones.
Special thanks to my good friend Phill for his extra help in the revision of the English version.
Finally, I would like to thank my parents for the unconditional support and their constant understanding which made this dream come true.