I noticed there was a rather heated debate about the camel spider. I’ve seen this photo making the rounds, but I doubt highly that it is an intentional hoax on the part of the photographer. Matt Drudge posted it on his news site, with his usual sensational flair, and all of a sudden people started reporting about this bug the size of a poodle. Your assumption about optics is no doubt correct. The bug is being held by a pair of pliers and the arm appearing in the top right corner is clearly protruding from what is obviously the jacket sleeve of a slightly bent-over soldier trying to get a closer look without touching. With a bit of inspection, the clues to scale are there. Even to the photographic layman’s eye, it’s pretty clear this monster is about six inches long — "
the size of a coffee cup saucer" — which is still pretty damned impressive. If this thing was three-feet long as some viewers have thought, this soldier would be eyeing it at the end of a bayonette, not the tip of a pair of pliers. For a comparison, there is another photo here. When viewed next to the supposed "hoax" photo, it is clear that the gigantic Paul Verhoevian specimen is perhaps slightly larger than the very believably sized one below, but not by much. It’s just a more impressive photo and who can fault them for that?
Thank you for your kind letter John. We were raked over the coals for printing that image, though it is a damn impressive photo. We try to teach our beginning photography students about the power of the image, and that is a great example of fooling the eye through creative use of scale. We do love sensationalism though.