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Moss Forest

Moss Forest
Photo Information
Copyright: Bob Harrison (BobH) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 40 W: 8 N: 192] (650)
Genre: Plants
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-10-04
Categories: Mountain
Camera: Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Exposure: f/8, 1/13 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-12-10 7:17
Viewed: 3739
Points: 0
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Moss Forest

This post was spurred partly by Bob Shannon's recent very nice thistle macro and partly by separate discussions of the supermacro world with Joe K (joey). It fits with my occasional theme of ecological succession in post-glacial Maine.

The photo is the center portion of a small patch of moss. The object across the top of the moss is a white pine needle, about 1 mm wide and intruding about 3 cm into the picture. The height of this "forest" is never more than 2 cm and more typically about 1 cm. The "forest" is in a slight depression in the top of a room sized granite boulder, a "glacial erratic" which is part of the island of my previous "Loon Island" post.

Glacial erratics litter the state of Maine. Most are person to car sized chunks of granite, but some can be much larger. The ones which anchor the islands in Maine's lakes are often closer to house sized, and sometimes bigger. The process of reducing these behemoths (and Maine's granite bedrock itself) to soil is slow and sometimes very subtle. But that inexorable process never stops attacking every exposed piece of rock, to a greater or lesser degree.

When you step on Maine granite, you are often not in direct contact with unmodified rock. Instead you are more likely to be stepping on lichens, mosses, and varying amounts of fine biological detritus. All these are part of the process of destruction that biology inflicts on rocks en route to the formation of soil. In aggregate, the results of this process are big (resulting in things like the islands of my "Loon Island" and "Little Loon Island" posts), but the scale on which the process works is usually small, as described in my posts "Minimalist Lichen Art" and "Split Island".

It is easy to walk right past moss and lichens and forget they are there, just as easy to consciously ignore them and step on them, and easier still to lose sight of their fundamental ecological importance. A bit of effort is needed to get down to their level (literally) and understand that they have complexity, structure, and relationships, just like larger organisms. My training in biology tells me that this micro-forest, with its own few mm thick base of soil and its centimeter-sized "trees", is probably harboring a vibrant and fascinating ecosystem. Extending the magnification from this photo would undoubtedly bring some of that ecosystem into view (maybe next spring!). Photography at the close supermacro level would probably bring forth unusual views such as in my "Berry Strange" post and in the workshop of my "Sweet Maple Light" post. Pictures down to the microscopic level would undoubtedly reveal a world alien to nearly everyone but the most serious botanists.

tech notes on capture: shot with existing light (direct sunlight from the side) in supermacro mode; the camera was on a mini-tripod, with the lens barrel leaning on a stick; shot with self-timer; lens to subject distance roughly 2 cm

tech notes on PS image processing: shadows brightened slightly, contrast increased significantly, slight sharpening, no color modification other than slight increase in total saturation (to compensate for the slight washout from the direct sunlight; the hue is quite real)

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