Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Cable Bay

with 15 comments

In the Cable Bay section of Doubtless Bay on February 13th I focused on the rocks and shells along the beach. In particular, I was intrigued by clusters of small black mussels that looked to me as if they could be pieces of obsidian.

I take the genus to be Xenostrobus, but if anyone knows for sure, please chime in. Here’s a closer look at a group of these mussels.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2017 at 5:10 AM

15 Responses

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  1. Black mussels are as unfamiliar to me as black sand. With no context for the second photo, I might have seen the dark spots as voids, and interpreted the objects as sponges. The third photo looks like the kind of leopard-fur prints used in fabric and backgrounds for web design. There’s so much life in areas like this. It’s really fascinating to see.


    March 27, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    • It’s not often that I can throw a new nautical thing your way. The main reason I’ve been able to do that a couple of times lately is New Zealand. Had you seen these mussels in person, I think there’d have been enough three-dimensional visual information that you wouldn’t have seen the black areas as voids.

      As for design, I have an intuition that some principle is at work in the way these mussels arrange themselves. In particular, it’s rare that any two of them touch. I wonder if a mathematically inclined zoologist has worked out an explanation of the pattern.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2017 at 10:28 AM

  2. What a lovely swirling pattern the mussels make.

    Sherry Felix

    March 27, 2017 at 9:36 AM

    • Agreed. There’s something distinctive about the patterns these mussels make, but I don’t have any idea what principle is at work.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2017 at 10:30 AM

  3. Great photos Steve, these photos bring back memories of when I was a child and going to the beach. And the pain of walking over these so called rocks, only to discover that they were in fact mussels.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 27, 2017 at 1:32 PM

    • It’s good to have a comment from someone who’s familiar with these mussels, even if that familiarity came the hard way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2017 at 3:08 PM

  4. Monreale doesn’t have a patch on these mussel mosaics.

    Susan Scheid

    March 27, 2017 at 4:29 PM

  5. […] else that intrigued me at Cable Bay on February 13th and at other places on other dates was a type of brown algae known by the […]

  6. Great shots Steve .. a familiar sight 😃


    March 31, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    • I wish I could drive a few miles from home and see something like this. You guys over there are fortunate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2017 at 6:43 AM

  7. Another nice spot. Sure would take a lot of those mussels to contribute to a nice bouillabaisse.

    Steve Gingold

    April 1, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    • Yeah, they’re pretty small. I don’t know if people eat them.
      There are so many nice spots in New Zealand that a nature photographer could keep working essentially forever.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2017 at 9:30 AM

  8. Beautiful documentation of this patch of mussels, Steve! Nature is quite the artist.

    Lavinia Ross

    April 3, 2017 at 11:45 AM

    • I got intrigued by the distinctive (and as you say, artistic) way these mussels grow. I’d never seen anything like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2017 at 6:14 PM

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