Snow Day with Snails

The temperature today is -8 degrees C with the wind chill, and intense snow squalls streaming off Georgian Bay and Lake Huron are blanketing the London area. The westbound lanes of Highway 401 were closed last night because of multiple collisions, schools are closed today and police are warning motorists to stay off the streets and highways.  I suppose it is a great day to take snow pictures, but I hate going out in the cold, and so I decided to do an indoor photoshoot using my collection of mollusk shells. 

I have been thinking about this ever since I came across Nature in Miniature, a book written in 1989 by Andreas Feininger a professional photographer who worked for Life Magazine. The objective of his book was to convey to the viewer the joy of finding beauty, fascinating forms, delicate details, or thought provoking aspects in common objects of nature. I think this is a great objective.

My first example is a beautiful mollusk known as the Angel Wing (Cryptopleura costata).  This animal is a bivalve mollusk like a clam, that is, it has a shell that consists of two separate halves (valves). It is found in burrows in muddy intertidal areas of Florida, and it occurs as far north as Massachusetts. If the current trend of global warming continues, it will no doubt extend its range progressively northward.

The animal’s white shell (Photo 01) typically measures some seven inches in length, and is characterized by about 30 beaded, radial ribs per valve (count ‘em). The prominent growth increments indicate that this specimen was more than 25 years old.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to solarize this image and increase the colour saturation (Photo 02). Some may argue that this is tampering with nature, but I like the result.

Unlike the Angel Wing, the Red Abalone (Haliotis rufesces) has only one shell. This marine snail is common in the waters off the coast of northern California. Abalone are considered to be a seafood delicacy, and they are now farmed commercially in many parts of the world. Abalones are sometimes called Sea Ears because of the flattened shape of their shells (Photo 03).  These heavy shells average six to eight inches in diameter, and are highly prized for their inner, iridescent mother-of-pearl layer (Photos 04 and 05). Again I couldn’t resist tampering, and I inverted the image of the interior of the shell (Photo 06). Now that looks more like a snow day.

 

The Tent Olive (Oliva porphyria) is one of the most distinctive and instantly identifiable of all seashells (Photo 07). This marine snail occurs mainly in the Gulf of Panama, and ranges north to the Gulf of California and south to the Galapagos. It lives in sandy intertidal areas.The shell  is smooth and highly polished, and it derives its name from an amazing pattern of zigzags that is suggestive of tents or mountain peaks. I have stylized this pattern by using a glowing-edge filter (Photo 08).

The Textile Cone (Conus textile) found in tropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans is a poisonous snail with a toxin that can kill a human. This mollusk exhibits a most unusual and complex shell pattern (Photo 09) consisting of light brown pigmentation in two bands,  and wavy vertical lines of chocolate interrupted by sharp triangles of white. Again, I have used the glowing-edge filter in an attempt to stylize this pattern (Photo 10).

Finally, the Sundial (Architectonica perspective) is a small mollusk (about two inches) that is found on sandy-mud bottom in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The shell of this animal is laid down in a striking clockwise spiral (Photo 11). I have attempted to enhance this interesting pattern by using the glowing-edge filter (Photo 12).

These are just a few examples of the amazing art of nature as exhibited by marine mollusks.

To view more of my photos, check out my website (www.davidogilviephotography,ca).

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