Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 23rd, 2011

Royal purple, sepulchral white

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Click for greater detail.

When I started wandering the prairies, hills, and canyons of central Texas 12 years ago in order to observe and photograph nature, I soon began coming across the tiny white shells of land snails. Most of these have been on the ground, sometimes several or even many in a small area, but occasionally I’ve found one attached in isolation to the branch of a living or dead plant. The shell that you see here was one of those; it was close to some of the bluebells I photographed on June 10 on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin. The picture I posted soon afterwards of a bluebell bud was from the same session, and in today’s picture you can see quite a bit of purple from the bluebell flowers that weren’t far away, yet were distant enough to remain obligingly out of focus.

Like the exuviae of a cicada, these empty snail shells linger in the landscape for months and years, gradually getting covered in dust and dirt and losing the pristine, almost idealized form they had when still an immaculate white. Unlike exuviae, which though empty of life mark a passage to the next stage in an insect’s development, each of these tiny snail shells is an ending from which nothing further emerged.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2011 at 5:49 AM

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