Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Taut strings and other imaginings

with 18 comments

Algae Strands Dried Out 3036

The algae you saw beginning to dry out in the previous post’s first photograph appeared to consist of strings, but those strings were crumpled, presumably because there had been no strong flow in that part of the creek. The second photograph in that post showed somewhat straighter and drier but still mostly green algae.

Now contrast those patches of algae with the ones in today’s post, which are likewise from a tributary of Bull Creek. In today’s first photograph you see dried and stretched-out strings of algae that retained the imprint of a once-fast current. Note several sycamore seeds (Platanus occidentalis) tangled in the algae strands.

Here’s another picture from that same January 29th session in which the algae are so finely swept that you might think you’re looking at the grain in wood or the strata in rocks:

Finely Swept Algae 2950

And finally, in a third straight-down view, the picture below offers up curves and feathery structures in dried algae, as well as intricately delicate forms that could pass for cobwebs. This photograph kept reminding me of a fossil of Archaeopteryx, and then also of the Escher lithograph Drawing Hands.

Algae Drying Out 2985

So ends a three-part trip into pallor. Color comes crashing back in tomorrow.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2016 at 4:48 AM

18 Responses

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  1. I’ve brought up wads of matting that looked like that with a fish hook.

    Jim Ruebush

    February 17, 2016 at 7:41 AM

  2. This series reminds me of when I was a kid and my mother would send me out in the canoe to pull algae out of the lake. As it dried it would create interesting patterns, as you have shown here and yesterday.


    February 17, 2016 at 8:19 AM

  3. The effect that the presence or absence of water has on algae is fascinating. Your series as a whole reminds me of this almost unimaginable example of 4D printing.

    Of course, the technological version of flowers which expand and open in water is akin in its effect to the paper flowers we used to play with as kids. They were Chinese or Japanese, and came in a little tube. We placed them in water, and, in time, had a wonderful floating garden. Even Proust remembered those:

    “And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”


    February 17, 2016 at 9:26 AM

    • The quotation in your comment acted as a little madeleine for me and sent me back half a century to the French literature course in which we read Proust, and to the time dimension in which I worked to hold the first parts of each long sentence in my mind so I could hook them up with whatever conclusion the sentence eventually came to and not get lost along the way. Having to do it in a foreign language made the task more difficult.

      I hadn’t heard about the printed objects that change their shape in water. The technique is fascinating, and I expect before long we’ll see plenty of creations brought to life by it.

      I saw more algae today but kept myself from photographing it. Not so yesterday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2016 at 12:18 PM

    • I liked that 4D printing example.

      Jim Ruebush

      February 17, 2016 at 4:41 PM

  4. I thought you would know about this place near Austin. I follow Chris Helzer and enjoy his good works on the prairie.


    Jim Ruebush

    February 17, 2016 at 4:38 PM

  5. As a guitarist, I was immediately drawn to your allusion to taut strings, and continued on to your lovely treatment of the algae. Your third image (2985) I find particularly well-composed, and it reminds me very much of the grasses that grow up here in Omaha. Good stuff, Steve.


    February 17, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    • As a guitarist, you got a bonus here that I not only didn’t intend but didn’t even conceive, not being a musician myself.

      How interesting that the dried algae of the third photograph look to you like Nebraskan grasses: such different organisms, yet similar forms. I’m used to thinking about convergent evolution, but I don’t know that we could invoke that for this resemblance.

      In any case, Gary, I’m pleased that you found these photographs good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2016 at 9:02 PM

  6. Pallor works for me. It’s all part of life’s pageant. I’ve never much paid attention to dried algae so you’ve piqued my interest.

    Steve Gingold

    February 21, 2016 at 4:58 PM

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