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minimalist lichen art

minimalist lichen art
Photo Information
Copyright: Bob Harrison (BobH) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 40 W: 8 N: 192] (650)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2004-02-15
Categories: Lichens
Camera: Olympus 700C UZ
Exposure: f/3.5, 1/400 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Lichen, Abstract Nature [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-11-30 23:13
Viewed: 7369
Points: 8
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
minimalist lichen art (for Markus) and some natural history for all

This picture was taken at a very popular spot on the Maine coast, just a few meters from the ocean and within the highest spray zone (where ocean water sometimes reaches and affects what life forms can survive there). Most visitors are mesmerized by the beautiful surf and tide pools and cross the rugged rockscape to reach the shore without seeing the smaller beauty in the lichens on those rocks.

At one level this image is a set of interesting colored circles drawn on the flat surface of a big rock. Appreciating it at that level is fine, but there is much more here than meets the eye at first. At another level the same image shows a crucial part of the natural history of the Maine coast. Here is a thumbnail sketch of part of that natural history.

The geologic processes operating on the region push the metamorphic rock up in forms that are reproduced along many km of coast. Cooling and additional geologic pressures cause many fracture planes to crisscross the rocks. Water penetrates these cracks in the rock. Through many cycles of freezing and thawing the rock splits, usually along a plane determined by the original fractures (and ultimately by the molecular structure of the rock). The cycles repeat until the result is pieces small enough to be moved from their original location. Once this occurs, more aggressive and much faster processes take over the destruction of the rock. But before that happens, windblown materials lodge in the small cracks of the fracture planes in the large and very stationary rock. Lichens take hold and grow outward as roughly circular colonies.

The lichens accelerate the rock's deterioration at the crack by allowing more water and windblown debris to be captured in the crack. Outside the crack, the lichen adheres to the intact rock surface as it grows, eventually modifying the surface slightly by releasing organic acids. When the mass of lichen gets so thick that it can't grip the rock well, it falls off, exposing the modified surface. The lichen can repeat the colonization process from within the circle of the original colony, because part of it will always be left in the crack when the overgrown portion spalls off.

Repeated many times over hundreds and thousands of years, this process is a crucial part of converting the rock to beach sand or soil. The often thin soil of Maine is testament to the success of the process. Anyone in a rocky environment probably has some awareness of this process, but it is easy to overlook the everyday signs that it is slowly working its magic. It is also easy to forget that some of the most complex ecosystems owe their beginnings to humble pioneers like these lichens.

In this photo, the origin of the lichen colonies in the cracks is quite obvious in the way they are centered on those cracks. You can also clearly see the modification of the rock surface under the colony's earlier growth and the resumption of outward growth from somewhere on the crack where it started.

Tech note- slight contrast and brightness adjustment, otherwise nothing.

Heaven, NinaM has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To meyerd: vielen dankBobH 1 12-01 09:35
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello Bob !
Lichens can be very interesting and very beautiful, when you look at them attentively. I really like the shape of thiese lichens, like circles. They stand out nicely on the dark grey rock. Details and composition are beautiful too. Well done !

Hi Bob,
I like your composition of the shot, I like the lichens, I like the lichen pattern but I absolutely admire your note! Well done.
Best regards

  • Great 
  • Heaven Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 996 W: 123 N: 2341] (7912)
  • [2007-12-01 12:48]

Hi Bob!

It's as beautiful as it is surprising. Nature is a great artist. Maybe some would say this is a banality, but I then would reply why only a few people see and put in evidence the nature's beauty.

I would like to congratulate you also for the very interesting and instructive notes.

Kind regards


  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2007-12-06 19:00]

Hi again Bob, I am so glad to have discovered your gallery. How interesting this is. First, I was attracted by this photo for the graphic look of it, very nice. I even thought those were similar to crop circles found in fields... to realize they were lichens. I love the fact you play with the scales and the interesting note accompanying this photo make it worthwhile to look at even more. Thank you for the beautiful picture, well captured, beautiful colours, depth of field etc. super, and the more than interesting note. Thank you,


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