Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Like something by Salvador Dalí

with 34 comments

Orange Seaweed Against Sky 5388

You know those Surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí with melting watches and other strange shapes? Well, that’s what I’m reminded of here with this type of hard orange-brown seaweed that I encountered on beaches along various parts of New Zealand’s shoreline. The specimen you’re looking at comes from February 18 at Kekerengu on the northeastern coast of the South Island. To photograph this piece of seaweed I held it up against the blue sky so that you could see it in isolation rather than amid the detritus on the beach where it was lying.

In searching the Internet, I found images that made me think this seaweed might be bull kelp, Durvillaea antarctica, which you can read more about in Wikipedia and from the Seaweed Industry Association. Then I looked a little further and learned that in 2011 phycologists had segregated a kind of bull kelp and declared it a new species, Durvillaea poha, which could be what this specimen actually was.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2015 at 5:45 AM

34 Responses

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  1. oh yes, that’s very salvdor dali-esque!

    • Agreed!


      May 4, 2015 at 6:38 AM

      • I’m happy to be seconded and thirded, and from such distant parts of the globe as Ecuador and New Zealand. I can even add that I’ve been to the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Catalunya.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 4, 2015 at 7:02 AM

        • Sadly, I can’t equal that. But thanks to your seaweed photo, and my subsequent googling of NZ seaweed, I have encountered a wonderful NZ botanical artist and authority on seaweed, Nancy Adams http://digitalnz.org/records/20358151?


          May 4, 2015 at 7:42 AM

          • Too bad she’s not with us anymore. I found this brief biography:


            Steve Schwartzman

            May 4, 2015 at 8:51 AM

            • Indeed. I must look out for her books when I am next in the second hand bookstore.


              May 4, 2015 at 9:09 AM

              • I had a similar reaction when I saw the list of her books. When I was in Auckland (and elsewhere) I noticed quite a few bookstores, but for once I didn’t go into any. Perhaps I should have. Let’s hope you do and that you find some of those titles.

                Steve Schwartzman

                May 4, 2015 at 9:14 AM

                • You were probably wise to stay away from bookstores. Photographs are lighter on the pocket and the luggage.


                  May 4, 2015 at 8:20 PM

                • When I spent part of the summer in Barcelona in 1985 (which is why I was able to visit the Dalí Museum in Figueres), the dollar was strong and I bought quite a few books, too many to carry back in my luggage. I packaged up the books in several boxes and mailed them home to myself at book rate, which wasn’t expensive.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  May 4, 2015 at 8:56 PM

                • Those were the days. Does book rate exist anymore I wonder? I remember first class mail, second class mail, surface mail, book/magazine mail; so many choices.


                  May 4, 2015 at 9:21 PM

                • In the United States, book rate has been replaced by “media mail.”

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  May 4, 2015 at 10:15 PM

                • Media mail…….hmmm….. our NZ Post site gives two categories, letters and parcels. It’s that ol’ ‘plain and simple’ at work again.


                  May 4, 2015 at 10:25 PM

    • Good to hear from you: I hope that means you’re feeling better.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 7:10 AM

  2. yes ! looks like a work of art !


    May 4, 2015 at 6:12 AM

    • Much more so when isolated against the sky than when it was on the beach, so I’m glad I held it up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 7:04 AM

      • yes, now it looks huge ! and a clear blue sky is a great background ! love it !


        May 4, 2015 at 7:11 AM

        • With the blue replacing any details of the beach, you’re free to let the seaweed expand as much as you want in your imagination.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 4, 2015 at 7:15 AM

          • but that is something most people don’t see, there is so much beauty in small things…..


            May 4, 2015 at 7:16 AM

            • Yes, there is. Normally I investigate that with a macro lens, but here I see I used a zoom lens set to the 55mm focal length that photographers consider “normal.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 4, 2015 at 7:25 AM

  3. As soon as I saw this pic in my WordPress reader, I thought, Salvador Dali – melting clocks. Then I opened the post up and read your words likening it to the artist’s work, so we think alike on this occasion. Love it! 🙂


    May 4, 2015 at 6:37 AM

    • You’re the third person in half an hour to reaffirm the Dalí vision. Suddenly I’m wondering if Dalí himself would have seen it that way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 7:07 AM

  4. It’s reassuring, really. I always found Dali disturbing, but maybe he saw something like this that inspired him.

    Also, you’ve reminded me of the glee I felt when some entomologists made a concerted study of moths at Illinois Beach. This time they really looked at the LBJ’s…(little brown jobs) and it turns out there were hundreds of previously unrecognized species. Classic case of lumpers vs. splitters.


    May 4, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    • There’s a disturbing element in other Surrealist paintings as well (for example those by Georgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy). I don’t recall ever reading accounts of what inspired any of the Surrealist painters, but I suspect those accounts are out there.

      In Texas I’ve heard botanists speak of DYCs (darn yellow composites), but LBJ is a new one for me (perhaps eclipsed here by the Texan LBJ who became president). I think I’ve heard of “lumpers versus splitters.” I’ve come across examples of both in the botany of Texas plants, and reorganizations of both types keep occurring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 9:21 AM

  5. Hello Dali. This is so wonderfully abstract yet realistic at the same time. A bit risque maybe for this family oriented blog though.

    Steve Gingold

    May 4, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    • Well Hello Dalí indeed. Your comment about risqué reminds me of the French proverb “Qui ne risque rien n’a rien,” literally “Whoever risks nothing has nothing,” or as we might say in English, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 4:14 PM

  6. I didn’t think of Dali, but of moose: specifically, bull moose, with their terrific antlers. Is it possible that’s where the term “bull kelp” originated? It’s even a bit reminiscent of staghorn ferns.

    Of course, all these bull kelp/bull moose associations call to mind another President who was just as colorful as LBJ: Teddy Roosevelt. I must say, it looks as though that kelp could last longer than the Bull Moose Party did.


    May 4, 2015 at 10:00 PM

    • This seaweed is new to me, but I have the impression that people chose the epithet “bull” to indicate strength and size, just as in the bull moose that you conjured up from the days of TR. The piece of kelp shown here may remind you of a moose’s antlers, but I also saw larger and more complex pieces that I don’t think would suggest antlers to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2015 at 10:29 PM

  7. […] of strange shapes reminiscent of objects in Surrealist paintings, how about this eruption in a pool of boiling mud? I took the picture on February 24th at […]

  8. That is pretty wild, love the shape and color…It is always so amazing when you really stop to look at something closely.

    • It’s a different wild from the wild of wildflowers, but a close (or abstract) look can reveal (or suggest) many things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 2:52 PM

  9. Great view of the kelp. It makes it into a work of art. I thought it was a bull kelp at first glance. Nice to know I was right when i read through your post. Love this photo so much.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 5, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    • By holding it up against the sky I abstracted it and brought more attention to its shapes, which then quickly reminded me of 20th century Surrealist art.

      I’m glad to have your supporting vote for bull kelp of some sort. I saw it in various places around the country but didn’t try to identify it till I was back home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      • My mother used to soak this in water and use that water to feed her vegetable garden. Needless to say she had an amazing vegetable garden.

        Raewyn's Photos

        May 5, 2015 at 3:38 PM

        • Now that’s the kind of anecdote I’m glad to hear from someone who’s lived with this kelp for decades.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 5, 2015 at 3:42 PM

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