The Story of the Poppy, the Caterpillar and the Spider

California Poppy

California Poppy

California Poppy, Painted Lady Caterpillar, Spider

California Poppy, Painted Lady Caterpillar, Spider

Nature is beautiful, challenging, dangerous and merciless all at the same time. Take the story of the poppy, the caterpillar and the spider, for instance.

One morning while roaming around near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve outside of Lancaster, CA, I was searching for the beauty of a Southern California spring morning. The beauty was obvious. Poppies covered the ground almost as far as the eye could see mixed with owl’s clover, goldfields and Joshua trees.

It wasn’t long after sunrise and the poppies had just opened. The ground was damp and I imagined that the rattlesnakes were beginning to warm up and the scorpions were on their way to their homes in the cool soil underneath rocks.  I set up my tripod and camera, laid flat on the ground and expected both of these animals to come inspect what I was doing. I’m used to being in areas with bears, mountain lions and other creatures with teeth and claws but, being the only warm thing around, I figured that the smaller man-eaters would enjoy breakfast (actually, the scorpions there are relatively harmless and the rattlers aren’t particularly interested in things that they can’t eat).

In this peaceful environment, I watched the flowers open to the sun. Painted Lady butterflies were going from flower to flower adding to the beauty of the poppies. The young caterpillars were scattered among the plants innocently eating both leaves and petals with no awareness of the dangers around them.

I watched one caterpillar enjoying his (her?) breakfast. Then, suddenly, the caterpillar’s world was about to change. A spider came out from under the poppy pedal searching for a victim that would sustain it. It spotted the young caterpillar. The spider struck! The caterpillar had no escape. It fought valiantly but finally succumbed to the merciless spider.

Of course, I’ve anthropomorphized just a little bit. Nature simply took it’s normal course that morning and I was lucky enough to witness it. My plan was simply to shoot poppies before the sun got too high and I walked away with a prize that made my entire shoot more than I could have imagined.

I tend to capture the world in a little different way than most photographers and I brought black and white film in addition to color film so that I could make unusual poppy images. I aimed upward through the flower using the camera loaded with black and white in order to make it look like I had x-rayed the poppy.  It definitely came out as a different view.

If you visit Antelope Valley this spring, you’ll find your own story of the beauty of nature. The challenge will be to see the detail and not the entire field of poppies. The only danger, though, is becoming so enamored with the beauty that you may find yourself spending the entire day wandering aimlessly and then wondering where you left your car.